Heinz Vogler could fix planes and fly gliders, but in the end it was the mountains that prompted his ski-obsessed family to give up life in the city and start a second life in Whistler.
Vogler passed away on Aug. 26 - 34 years to the day that he packed up his family and relocated to Whistler. He was 84 years old and was recovering from hip replacement surgery when his health took a turn for the worse.
His wife Betty, three children and seven grandchildren visited him daily at St. Paul's Hospital.
Stephen Vogler, his youngest son, remembers Heinz as a family man. When the family showed an interest in leaving Richmond and moving to Whistler he was game - he grew up skiing in Black Forest, and used to hike up the mountains in order to be able to ski down.
He still worked in Richmond part-time as an airplane mechanic for a few years, but in his third year in Whistler started a second career as the head of building maintenance for Whistler Mountain. Though he retired almost 20 years ago he still made keys for Whistler Blackcomb.
According to Stephen, Heinz was responsible for bringing flush toilets to the Roundhouse and Pika's - a source of pride and a lot of funny stories about what happens when a vacuum-fan system backfires.
"He was no ski bum," said Stephen. "He was a family man first and a hard worker all his life."
He was also a man who knew how to do things. Back in Richmond, Heinz built all of the family's furniture himself - "and it was really finely made," said Stephen.
Heinz designed the new family home in Alpine Meadows and had a workshop in the basement where he built things for the house. He did all the woodwork and stonework on his property himself. He could even use a welder.
Those skills made him a lot of friends in the construction industry, and after retiring he could be found at Tapley's Pub for lunch on Monday and Friday meeting his construction buddies and having a beer.
"He kept doing that right up to the end. He made a point of it," said Stephen. "He was really active. There were three flights of stairs to the top floor, and I think what kept him going was climbing all those stairs every day."
During his airplane mechanic days, Heinz also got into flying gliders. However, Stephen says he gave that up for his family.
"He knew he wouldn't be around, because he'd be out gliding all the time," said Stephen. "That said, for his 80 th birthday his friend... gave him a flying session up in Pemberton. We were wondering if he was going to do it, his eyes weren't as good anymore, but he was a really incredible flier and knew his stuff. He went up there for an hour and the guy let my dad fly for a while. He couldn't see his instruments well, but opened up a little window on the side so he could tell his wind speed by the sound of the air going by."
Heinz was also an avid tennis player, and founded the Richmond Tennis Club in the mid-1960s - an organization that is still going today.
His other big passion was music. His own father played in a symphony orchestra at home in Freiburg, Germany and Heinz inherited that love of classical music and opera.
Heinz is survived by his wife Betty, his three children Stephen and Peter Vogler, and Vicky Bunbury (nee Vogler). He is also survived by one of his sisters, Dorle Dudda who still lives in Germany.
Stephen says his remains will be interred at the Whistler Cemetery after a family ceremony. The family is planning to host a celebration of Heinz's life in the next few weeks that will be open to the rest of the community.
"He had a lot of friends, both through the mountain and the community, and we wanted to do something for them as well," said Stephen. "We're still settling the venue and date, but it will be in late September."