Rotary members present Doug Quail (centre) with the tree, which was planted at the Fernie Heritage Library garden in memory of his late wife Wilda Quail. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Family history project to present lessons from the past

Those attending the Chautauqua Fall Fair this year will have a chance to step back in time and learn about what life was like in Fernie during the 1800s.

They will also get a chance to learn about a very well known Fernie family – the Quails.

Presented by Sharon Quail, the exhibit will highlight the legacy of the Quail family, and how they have been instrumental in the development of the mountain town of Fernie.

A part of the art on the lawn display at Fernie City Hall, the Quail’s display will include photo albums with photos and artifacts over 100-years-old.

Included in the album will be photos dating back to the time of Sharon’s great grandfather John Quail, when he came overseas from London. From Kingston Ontario, he travelled west on horseback, and settled in Fernie.

The exhibit will include the history of her family from this time through to her parents Wilda and Doug Quail.

Doug and Wilda, who both passed away within the last two years, are remembered fondly and missed by many.

“The community – the community and the people,” said Sharon, when asked how her parents impacted the town.

“I think for dad, he had a big heart for everybody. Mom was right by his side helping him with his business; they were very passionate about the people around them and very caring,” she continued.

Doug is remembered for many things, not the least of which was his kind spirit, as well as the legacy he built with his store; Quail Builders Supplies, located downtown. He is also remembered for the parking lot behind the store and across from the post office, which he donated to the City of Fernie.

From 1970 to 1992, Doug operated this business downtown Fernie.and Sharon remembers him always giving back to the community.

“He believed in fairness, loyalty, honesty, he thought that was the root of Fernie,” said Sharon.

“That’s one of the reasons Dad gave that parking lot up,” she said. “He could see Fernie growing, and he could see the need of it. And look at it – it’s full.”

Over the years, Sharon said she and her family found comfort and guidance from the lives and stories of their ancestors, because she said, one day they will become ancestors themselves.

“We’ve got to live lives worthy of being remembered, for those who come after us,” said Sharon.

“I think it’s our duty and privilege to learn from the past, and to live honourably in the present, and help our future generations,” she added.

For this reason, Sharon said she agreed to be a part of Chautauqua; to help people learn from the past.

To reference how much has changed over the years, Sharon told a story of when her grandmother used to walk up to Island Lake to pick berries. She also recalled when her grandmother sewed potato sacks together to make long underwear for the kids.

Sharon remembers stories from her father Doug, such as when he used to help his father George haul wood from Coal Creek into Fernie to build homes.

This exhibit, one of many events at Chautauqua, is a part of one of the Fernie Heritage Society’s larger initiatives, the Community Memory Project. It will be presented on Saturday, September 21, as a part of Chautauqua’s regional history event.

There will be representatives of other museums in attendance displaying artifacts alongside a display of the Lost Souls Project and the Fernie Cemetery Society.


Sharon Quail. Photo courtesy of Sharon Kelly

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