Rich Popham was a man with a big heart and a generous spirit. He left this world peacefully on November 30, 2021, surrounded by family and abundant love. He will be dearly missed but we know that his suffering is over and he is at rest. He was many things to many people: brother, dad, grandpa, great-grandpa, friend, neighbour and, of course, beloved husband of 60 years to his wife Barbara. Most of all, he was a man well worth knowing and a guy who would give you the shirt off his back. When asked if he would change anything in his life, his answer was always a resounding no!
Rich was born March 4, 1941, and grew up in the small village of Barons, Alberta, oldest sibling to brothers Ross and Les and sister Joan. When he was 18, he heard the call of the sea and embarked on a long career with the Royal Canadian Navy, where he learned his craft as a chef and, more importantly, met his bride. Navy life took Rich, Barb and their four children across Canada from Nova Scotia to Quebec to Alberta and Ontario, and finally Chilliwack. It even saw him serve at the frigid base of Alert, just a stone’s throw from the North Pole. He spoke affectionately of the ships he served on such as the HMCSs Annapolis, Bonaventure, Saguenay and Nipigon, and he made friendships that lasted a lifetime. Truly, his love of the sea was something Rich carried to the end of his days.
When he retired from the navy, he plied his culinary skills for BC Rail on their Pacific Starlight dinner train, then for Federal Corrections until he fully retired. Even then, Rich continued to play an active role helping feed school children through Chilliwack Bowls of Hope, and he cooked countless church dinners for his congregation at St. Dunstan’s Anglican in Aldergrove. He had a hard time saying no when asked for help, and, truth be told, he was always in his element running the kitchen and surrounded by food.
When he wasn’t feeding people, Rich could often be found trying to remove one or more of his fingers on his table saw or planer. He was a prolific woodworker of the ‘measure once, cut twice and swear’ school of carpentry. Over the years, he crafted numerous cabinets, tables, benches and various projects that remain in our homes as tangible reminders of his time and his talents. He was proud of his workshop, yet he freely lent or even gave away his tools to loved ones who needed them. And it was important to him to know that they would eventually be handed down to his kids and grandkids.
Rich was an avid reader who enjoyed swapping books with like-minded family members, and he cherished the opportunity to spend time on a lake, fishing with his son. He liked music and spent years singing with Barb in their church choir. Whether it was his barrel chest or his gusto for the hymn, it was never hard to pick out his distinctive voice ringing out from the group.
Although Rich lived with health issues for years, you seldom heard him complain. He worried about his family and didn’t want to be a bother to anyone, but he needn’t have troubled himself for he was deeply loved and well-cared for by those around him in his last months. In the end, Rich’s final wish was simply to go home, and that’s where he is now; pain-free, cooking delicious food, singing with Leonard Cohen, swapping stories and sailing the seas.
Left to keep Richard’s memories alive are his wife Barbara, his children Kim (Frank), David, Leasa and Karen (Steve), his grandchildren Craig (Kristen), Kristen, Tessa, Meagen, Jacob, Andrea, Clayton, Taylor and Brittany, his 15 great-grandchildren, his brothers Ross and Les, his stepbrother George and his many dear friends. Although we will miss his welcoming bear hugs, his big goofy grin, his trademark suspenders and hats and his warm presence in our lives, Rich will never be far away, for he has left an indelible print on our hearts.
We would like to thank the staff of 3 North at CGH and Cascade Hospice for their special care and attention. Cascade Hospice is a wonderful facility that allowed our family to be together in those final days. A celebration of Richard’s life will be announced soon. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you might consider donating to the Canadian Cancer Society. View Tribute Book.