One of Whistler Blackcomb's (WB) stalwart "sparkies" has died just shy of his 50th birthday.
Henry Stuart "Stu" Archer, born in Toronto in 1959, died in the late hours of April 2 at his home in Function Junction. He had worked at Whistler Blackcomb since 1981, most recently in the Electrical Maintenance department.
"He has been an icon at Whistler Blackcomb since November 1981 and will be sorely missed," Joel Chevalier, director of Employee Experience for Whistler Blackcomb, said in an e-mail to staff. "Stu would have celebrated his 50 th birthday on September 24 th of this year."
RCMP were gathered in three vehicles outside The Lofts building in Function Junction at about 2:30 p.m. last Friday. An officer at the scene said they were investigating a "routine sudden death."
Coroner Jan McFadden, who examined the body in a white GMC van, told a Pique reporter on that day that a resident had collapsed the night before.
McFadden said in a Monday interview that Archer was found deceased in his unit after what looked like a "very sudden death." She said an autopsy was performed Monday and that there was no cause of death as of yet. She also said Archer's body would be undergoing a toxicology analysis.
McFadden added that Archer was due to go golfing with a friend that day but that he never showed on the links. The friend, she said, is actually responsible for finding him, as he then went to his unit where he was found dead.
Laird Brown, Whistler Blackcomb's manager of electrical maintenance and a 30-year veteran of the company, supervised Archer for 20 years. He first knew him as a lift operator with the old Garibaldi Lift Company and later got him an electricial apprenticeship with Whistler Blackcomb.
"One of the highest compliments I could be paid is that he worked for me," Brown said. "He brightened everyone's life around him, he was full of humour, you know, great attitude."
Brown described Archer as a peacemaker - the kind of employee who could bring peace to a volatile worksite.
"If there was ever a job site where the electricians were fighting with the plumbers and the plumbers were fighting with the drywallers and the drywallers were fighting with the painters, we'd send Stu on the job site and by Friday, everyone was in love with everyone," Brown said.
In addition to being a longtime employee, Brown also knew Archer as a bit of a performer. Back in the days of the Crazy Canucks, Brown had seen his friend getting laughs out of some of the world's best skiers.
"He used to have a talent of being able to balance skis on his toes that was positively remarkable," Brown said. "He'd put (Steve) Podborski's skis on his toes and just move them around and Pod would have his arms out like he was going to drop them. It was sheer comedy."
Archer leaves behind his father, Henry Archer, two sisters, a brother-in-law and two nieces, all of whom live in Ontario.
Outside his work for Whistler Blackcomb, Archer was an avid outdoorsman. He loved to golf and snowmobile, but he also played goalie for the Whistler Whitetops. As well, he was on the Law Society baseball team for a number of years. He also did a lot of home renovations for friends.
The death, Brown said, came very suddenly and left him shocked and saddened.
"He was well known around Whistler, B.C. and Whistler Blackcomb," he said.
John Gilbreath, an old friend who worked with Archer at the lift company, remembers him as an entertainer.
"I remember Stewie when he showed up with the girls and stuff in the morning, they'd always play Michael Jackson's 'Thriller,'" he said. "You manually had to push the gondolas around. This guy would do the moonwalk around the back of the gondola. He was quite a performer."
Gilbreath also remembers him as a generous handyman who would do home renovations for friends - and often for very little pay.
"I'd be the businessman, I'd always be bugging him, quit doing it so cheaply, you've got to make a buck," he said. "One guy gave him an iPod with all his favourite music in it."
Gilbreath and other friends had planned a surprise 50 th birthday party for Archer in September - but it "just didn't happen that way," he said.
A memorial service will be held in the Atrium at the Telus Conference Centre on Monday, April 13 at 4:30 p.m. A "Whistler-style" celebration of his life is to follow at Merlin's at 6 p.m. Donations to the Whistler Food Bank or the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association are welcomed in lieu of flowers.