Cranbrook engineer honoured with Diamond Jubilee Medal

Celebration held for Elmer Higgins on anniversary of professional registration

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett (centre) presents Cranbrook engineer Elmer Higgins with two letters — one from Premier Christy Clark and the other from Governor General David Johnston — on Higgins’ receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

A great Cranbrook citizen was feted Thursday.

A celebration was held at the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce boardroom Thursday evening, Nov. 29, to honour Elmer Higgins, on the anniversary of his registration as a professional engineer.

Family, friends and colleagues turned out to the event, which featured a special presentation.

Kelly Beriault, an associate of Higgins, opened the event, mentioning that it was 46 years ago on the same date, Nov. 29, 1966, that Elmer Higgins became a registered professional engineer in British Columbia. She talked about the significant contributions Higgins has made over the years to Cranbrook, being involved in the design, construction or renovation of more than 100 projects in the community.

Beriault made one of two presentations to Higgins — a Tim Hortons gift card. She then introduced Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett for the second presentation.

Bennett elaborated on Higgins’ community involvement. Significant recent projects, for example, include the hospital expansion, the Cranbrook arches and the new Cranbrook Public Library. Bennett also mentioned Higgins’ humanitarian work — getting personally involved to help families in need, for example — and fine woodcarving. He said the Higgins is often offered money for his woodcarving pieces, but directs the purchaser to give the money to the hospital foundation.

Bennett then made the second presentation of the evening, on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and B.C. Premier Christy Clark — the Queen  Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal  is a medal created to mark the 60th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II. The Canadian medal is to “honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.”

Bennett pinned the medal on Higgins’ chest, and Higgins then spoke a few words to those in attendence.

“When I reached normal retirement age, I was too young for cards, or golf,” he said. So he took up woodworking, journeying to England more than once to take master classes. One of his first projects was an elaborate grandfather clock, which won first prize in a Windsor plywood national woodworking contest.

Higgins said the clock was now worth about $25,000. “If I’d taken up golf instead, all I’d have had were score cards.”

Higgins told another story of getting then Social Credit cabinet minister Grace McCarthy to sign off on a proposed insulation plant in Grand Forks — a $6 million project on which Higgins was engineer. Higgins talked the local party association, of which he was a member, into letting him pick up McCarthy from the airport during a visit to the East Kootenay. On the drive into Cranbrook, Higgins said he persuaded McCarthy that the plant was a good idea for the government to endorse.

The plant has operated continously for 23 years.