By Andrew Mitchell
On Dec. 23, one of Whistler’s pioneering spirits passed away after battling illness for five years.
Eunice “Kelly” Forster was born in Burnaby in 1929, grew up in that community, and later taught at an elementary school near her home. She became good friends with four other teachers, and together they pooled their resources to buy a cabin over the railway tracks on Alta Lake, which they named “Witsend”. During that period she somehow acquired the nickname Kelly, which her friends feel she kept because she wasn’t overly fond of her first name.
It was in Whistler that Kelly met Richard (Dick) Fairhurst, a true pioneer who had moved to Alta Lake in 1944 to work at Gebharts sawmill near Alta Lake. Dick, with the support of his family, also rented some cabins out to vacationers on his Alta Lake property.
They married in 1958, and built Cypress Lodge — the future hostel — which catered to fishing tourists, highway construction workers, and skiers in the winter months. Fairhurst managed the busy kitchen, baked pies, and raised two children. David was born in 1960 and Carol in 1962.
Carol has so many memories of growing up in Whistler, and attending school at the one room Alta Lake School where her mother sometimes filled in as a supply teacher. Among her memories are her dad securing water rights to Scotia Creek to provide electricity for residents, taking deliveries by train, trips to Squamish on the logging road and to Vancouver by train, skating on the lake, ice fishing, and skiing in the early days of Whistler Mountain during the winter, and summers spent swimming, fishing, berry picking, hiking, and taking part in the popular sailboat regattas on Alta Lake.
Other fond memories include tug-of-wars on the wharves, the ice breakup derby on Alta Lake, the early rope tow behind Alta Lake road, a bear in the attic, and a coyote stealing the Christmas turkey.
Kelly and Dick sold Cypress Lodge to Canadian Youth Hostel in 1972 and moved to Alpine Meadows. In 1980, with both children graduated from high school, the Fairhursts decided to retire to Parksville on Vancouver Island, where they would have to shovel less snow and have more time for gardening.
Dick passed away in 1983, and Kelly remarried Lew Eilers in 1990. They moved around the Interior for several years before settling in Penticton. They later moved backed to Vancouver Island after Kelly was diagnosed with a rare wasting disease, called multiple system atrophy, to be closer to family and friends. Most recently they lived in Nanaimo from 2001 until the time of her death.