Milton "Milt" Fernandez.
A cab driver, a fire chief, a storyteller renowned throughout the Pemberton Valley, he died July 12, just 18 days shy of his 73rd birthday and left it a safer place than when he arrived.
"Milt Fernandez was a dedicated individual who gave many years for nothing as a volunteer fire chief in Pemberton," said friend and former mayor Shirley Henry. "He just worked tirelessly and he was always out there trying to get the best deal for the village." He is remembered today as much for his slick, shiny black hair, described once as a "brand new factory shine that would look like a '57 Chevy," as his contribution to ensuring Pembertonians got where they needed to go, whether that be school, the hospital or to a fire in progress.
He drove school buses for the district through the Pemberton Meadows, a favoured driver for field trips because he knew how to make good time. He helped acquire new equipment for Pemberton's fire hall so that firefighters could tend to emergencies. He would drive expectant mothers from Pemberton to Squamish and is believed to have delivered over 60 en-route births.
Born in 1938, the son of a preacher from Trinidad, Milt grew up in East Vancouver and attended Templeton Secondary School. He showed an early passion for emergency services, attaching a siren to his bike and riding after fire trucks when they went out on emergency calls. Like the trucks before him, his siren would force cars to the side of the road.
Before coming to Pemberton he worked as a Greyhound driver, clocking "a million miles" as he drove out of a station in Ashcroft. He married wife Thelma in 1959 and had a son, Michael, and a daughter, Kathryn, who died in 1966.
Being a storyteller, many in Pemberton knew Milt to embellish details. That was a key fact to consider when you heard him tell about how he came to the Spud Valley.
At a 2010 Tea and Tales session held by the Pemberton Museum, Milt told of arriving in Toronto in the late 1960s after quitting his Greyhound job.
Wearing a suit and tie, he took a limousine from the airport to the train station where he boarded an "atomic train" to Montreal, at the time the newest train that Canada had ever seen.
Each of the cars was named after a province and Milt walked right in to the "B.C." car without a ticket. Right away he found himself seated next to a Mountie in red serge.
Looking around nervously, he began conversing with the Mountie, learning quickly that he was stationed in Squamish and that he had to travel once a week to enforce the law in Pemberton.