Orchardist pioneer left his mark on tree fruit industry

Allan Claridge, - Contributed
Allan Claridge,
— image credit: Contributed

An outspoken defender of his community and the tree fruit industry is being remembered fondly.

Allan Claridge, a longtime Oyama orchardist, died Wednesday at age 87.

“He’s a pioneer,” said Deb Butler, Oyama Community Club president.

Born at sea in 1924, Claridge moved to Oyama with his family when he was five years old.

His love for Oyama knew no bounds.

“If you have love of a district, it’s not impossible to get more out of it than you give,” he said during a 1999 interview.

He is a former member of the Oyama Community Club executive and he often chaired the club’s annual general meetings.

He volunteered at Oyama Fun Day, and lobbied to keep Oyama Elementary School open.

In the mid-1990s, Claridge was part of an unsuccessful bid to keep Oyama out of the new municipality of Lake Country.

“He was a huge supporter of the community,” said Butler.

Claridge was known for encouraging youth to pursue their dreams, and serving as an unofficial community arbitrator.

“He was very eloquent and able to facilitate dialogue between residents,” said Noreen Guenther, the Oyama representative on Lake Country council.

“He played a role of opening people up so they could discuss things.”

Claridge’s connections to the tree fruit industry  took root when his parents began farming.

“There was a passion not just for this industry but agriculture in general,” said Joe Sardinha, B.C. Fruit Growers Association president.

“He was a man, no matter how the year was going, he was always upbeat and positive.”

Claridge was a member of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association executive from 1957 to 1964, served as association president from 1966 to 1972 and was president of the Canadian Horticultural Council in 1970.

He was named agriculturist of the year by the B.C. Agrologists Institute in 1971 and served with the Agricultural Land Commission.

Working with him in the orchard were his wife Elsie, who died in 2010, son Don and daughter Alana. Daughter Candice lives in Kamloops.

“We’re able to work, live and enjoy it together, and we’re proud of what we do,” said Claridge in 1999.

Richard Rolke is a Black Press reporter.


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