A lifelong resident and long-time fire chief is being remembered for his dedication to Delta -- and for being a real character.
Gordon Huff passed away May 30 at the age of 97.
“He was a giant of a man who took no guff, commanded respect and that’s what made him such a good fire chief. He was strict but he was also a great guy, a fun guy,” said Ian Paton, a South Delta farmer and current Delta South MLA.
“It seems every kid who grew up on a farm volunteered for the fire department and worked at Fire Hall No. 4 that’s shut down now. That’s how we all got to know him, including myself and my brother,” said Paton.
A third-generation farmer who at one point owned a pair of farms in East Ladner, Huff was Second World War Royal Canadian Navy veteran, but he was also well known as a dedicated volunteer fireman and training officer for 35 years.
In 1953, Huff joined the local volunteer fire department and he and others were initially stationed in a converted chicken house in East Delta known as Hall No. 4. The firefighters were later located to a hall on Highway 10. Huff excelled as a firefighter and soon became chief.
Huff spoke proudly of the fact he supervised as many as 17 volunteers at any one time and that 14 of his team became full-time firefighters in Delta and neighbouring municipalities. He also brought on board Delta's first female volunteer firefighter.
In 1988, after 35 years of service, Huff retired from his volunteer position, at the time the longest serving fire chief in Delta’s history. He was recognized by three levels of government for his outstanding service and was thanked by Delta's mayor and council.
In a 2010 interview when the volunteer fire hall was officially closed, Huff, looking back, said he would have continued but was forced to hang up his helmet due to hearing problems.
"I wasn't tired," he said in an interview. "I would have loved to kept going."
Deputy Chief Robin Cullen at the time said, “Gordon was like a dad to everyone."
In 2015, Huff was recognized with a Municipal Long Service Award alongside Ken Davie, another former chief.
“Their legacy is still present today, as many of the firefighters that are still working in the department and throughout the Lower Mainland had the honour of being trained by these two great individuals.
They clearly demonstrated leadership, honesty and professionalism which made the citizens of Delta proud,” the city stated.
Huff received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Describing Huff as a gregarious and outgoing personality, a character much admired in the community, former mayor Doug Husband said, “Way back when when this was a little village, he was highly regarded as a fire chief, even though it was a volunteer fire department. Everybody sort of stepped aside when Gordon arrived at a fire scene because they knew he was in charge. He was highly regarded as someone who looked after the community’s safety.
“He was certainly a rough, tough gentleman in his time in the farm community and they all knew he took no guff from anybody, but he was a great friend. He was also a great friend of my uncle, Walter Husband, who became deputy fire chief in the paid fire department.”
Husband also noted Gordon’s dad Albert Huff, a farmer involved with the former Paterson Park harness race track, was also much admired in the community.
Even after retirement, Gordon Huff remained an active member of the Delta Agricultural Society, where he served as president, and with the Ladner Legion. He also served on several boards, including Delta’s agricultural advisory committee. He regularly met current and retired farmers for social gatherings at the coffee shop at Boundary Bay Airport.
Huff was predeceased by his wife Patricia, son Alan and sister Anita. He is survived by his daughter Joan and grandchildren Dana and Andrew. His family held a private service.