Vancouver’s famous clock master thanks community for generous donations

Ray Saunders was injured in a fall while working on a clock Sept. 12

Vancouver’s famous clock master, Ray Saunders, wants to thank the Vancouver community for $36,000 worth of generous donations to a fundraiser set up to help him, after he was seriously injured in a fall.

“It’s just the most wonderful blessing I could ask for,” Saunders told Vancouver Is Awesome, from his Vancouver General Hospital bed on Saturday.

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The well-known 79-year-old — who made the iconic Gastown Steam Clock in 1977 — was working on a clock in Trenant Park Square in Ladner on Sept. 12, when he fell 15 feet off a ladder.

He suffered a fractured pelvis, a broken vertebra, three cracked ribs, a nicked spleen and iliac artery, and a badly dislocated and fractured left shoulder in the accident. Saunders has spent more than two weeks in hospital receiving treatment, including three separate surgical procedures. He’s now slowly moving towards gentle physiotherapy exercises.

The major accident means Saunders, who is yet to retire from the job he loves dearly, won’t be able to fulfill his contracts or make a living. It’s expected he will be recuperating for about six months — to a year — if no complications develop.

A close friend of the family set up the Gofundme page on Sep. 15, to help cover the costs of his long recovery and to fund his living expenses. In just one day, donations reached $5,000. They’ve now reached over $36,000.

“I’m very grateful,” Saunders said. “It has given me a great deal of relief to not have to worry about struggling to get all the rent and all the bills paid.

“It’s really heart-warming to see the comments and to see how many people have donated, and I don’t even know who they are.”

To the Vancouver community and all who have donated he wanted to say, “Thank you so much.”

“It’s a very nice recognition and I really do appreciate it,” Saunders said.

The family hopes to raise $100,000, to cover expenses for a year and mobility adaptations to his apartment.

While Gastown’s steam clock is enjoyed by millions of people every year, Saunders has never received royalties from any of the millions of photos, album covers, T-shirts and other items with pictures of his famous clock.

He has instead spent tens of thousands of his own money and time on this and other clocks, without compensation, for the love of providing landmark clocks for the enjoyment of the public.

His eldest daughter, Marion Kirkham, told V.I.A. she was “amazed at how generous Vancouver has been.”

“I think a lot of people didn’t know that he didn’t make any money off of his clocks,” she said.

“It’s always just been a passion of his. He’s never received anything accept for public accolades for the amazing [Gastown] steam clock.

“He’s always just been extremely kind and really too generous.”

When asked if this would be the time her father retired, she laughed and said, “He will never retire.”

“He’s a stubborn, strong willed man. He has too much passion for what he does. He’ll be forced to retire but I think he’ll just move on to smaller clocks,” she said.

Kirkham said despite dealing with a lot of pain, her dad was still “the usual, cheerful, very charming man” he’s always been.

Known around town as ‘The Father of Time’, Saunders has built over 250 clocks in his 50 year career, with a total of seven steam clocks: several in the Lower Mainland, as well as one in Australia, one in Indianapolis and two in Japan.

He said he was in the process of passing his knowledge on to an apprentice before the accident.

“There’s not very many of us left that fix clocks in Vancouver,” he said.

While he has a long road to recovery, he is already setting a goal to “return to making my metal art” and managing the clock projects he has contracts on, if all goes well with his mobility.

“I’m getting better every day and it’ll be on to the exercises next,” Saunders said.

In the meantime, he said he would work on a hobby he’s been wanting to get to for a while, creating sculptured clocks out of recycled antique mechanisms.

Pascale-Sara F. McAfee, who is managing the Gofundme page, said Saunders was incredibly touched by all the kind words being sent his way.

“We go through the messages with him and it gives him a lot of strength, I would say,” she told V.I.A.

“He’s very determined and he’s going forward.”

The family is now working to spread the word internationally to continue the fundraiser’s momentum.

“Thank you so much for thinking of my father. He’s an incredibly generous man and it’s wonderful to see the city being generous right back,” Kirkham said. “Please keep spreading the word.”

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