Len Kosiec, a well-known and recognizable member of the Fernie community, passed away on December 8.
Born and raised in Fernie, Len will probably be remembered best as a compassionate and respected teacher. He began his teaching career at Michel-Natal Elementary School in 1964, before going on to teach in Invermere for a couple of years. Len came back to Fernie for good in 1968, where he continued to teach until retiring in 2001.
While Len was most recognized as a teacher, he wore many hats in the community.
He worked with the Elks, the Canadian Cancer Society, and held several offices for the Kootenay East Constituency of the New Democratic Party.
Len’s close friend, Patrick Burke, worked with him on several projects, one of the first being the Health Care Coalition’s effort to save the Elk Valley Hospital and its surgery unit.
“There were a lot of people involved in the Health Care Coalition, and Len and [his wife] Barbara were of course quietly working behind the scenes. He never really took the limelight on anything like that,” said Patrick. “Between the people who rallied behind the cause we were able to save the surgery unit.
“In later years, Len actually used the hospital for his own surgery before he passed. He was quite happy about that.”
Len was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion and donated much of his time while retired servicing the Legion portion of the Fernie Heritage Cemetery. It was in 2006 that he and Patrick founded the Fernie Heritage Cemetery Restoration Society.
“It looked like no one had paid attention to the cemetery for quite a while and it almost looked like it had been forgotten,” commented Patrick. “We started working on it and we never really realized how big the project was.”
There are roughly 5,000 people buried at the Fernie Heritage Cemetery, and approximately 2,700 of them are in unmarked graves. The goal of the project was to eventually have a stone placed for all the community members buried there that don’t have a marker at their grave.
Patrick said, “Len’s dedication in the hours of work at the cemetery, repairing and cleaning markers, clearing brush away from stones, and checking every stone for information for our records is greatly appreciated.
“Our society group is determined to continue the cemetery project that he was so passionate about.”
Len was successful in applying for and receiving 32 veteran stones to honour the veterans in the Legion part of the Heritage Cemetery. Another 15 markers are needed to complete that portion of the cemetery.
“I feel honoured that I was involved with Len in the cemetery project,” Patrick said. “When it’s completed it will be an amazing gift to Fernie to be able to say that this is your ancestry. He always felt that if you didn’t know what your past was, you couldn’t chart a direction for your future.”
Len was also a founding member of the Fernie Arts Theatre Ensemble Society, the Fernie Nordic Society, and the Tenth Avenue Annex Park Committee.
“Outside of projects that I was involved with I know there were several other things he worked on, the list just goes on and on,” explained Patrick. “Len always felt that you had to constantly be fundraising for the different organizations so that they could keep themselves vibrant, and I think that that will be missed.”
Len Kosiec was much more than a teacher to Fernie, and he will be missed by the entire community. The Fernie Heritage Restoration Cemetery Society is accepting donations from anyone who would like to remember and honour Len.