Dan FERGUSON / Langey Times Oct 1 2014 Rhys Griffiths leads a walking tour of the lagoon.

Tireless Langley volunteer and environmentalist passes away

Celebration of life for Rhys Griffiths will be held Feb. 10 at St George’s Anglican Church

A tireless steward and outspoken advocate for Langley’s natural environment has died.

Rhys Griffiths passed away on Saturday, Feb. 3. He was 92 years old.

Mr. Griffiths was born in England. With his wife, Annabel, he came to Canada in 1958, and dedicated his later years to the many environmental causes that were close to his heart.

From his Langley City home overlooking Brydon Pond — which he described as a jewel in Langley’s park system — he took an active role in helping to ensure the reclaimed lagoon stayed healthy enough to support the fish and bird life that depend on it.

That effort included taking a leading role in a five-year campaign to eliminate purple loosestrife, an invasive weed that, while beautiful, was spreading rapidly and choking the life out of the lagoon.

During the B.C. Day long weekend in 2014 a heatwave resulted in a massive fish kill in Brydon Pond. Poor oxygenation and rising sediment levels were blamed.

Along with fellow LFN member, Anthea Farr, Griffiths took an active role in helping to ensure another such disaster would not occur.

Together he and Farr led a walk around the pond the following October. The purpose of the outing was to draw attention to the plight of the lagoon and brainstorm ideas about how to return the pond to health. Griffiths encouraged participants to think big when it came to possible solutions.

“We’re looking for feedback,” he said. “It can be reasonably wild, because you can ignore such mundane things as money.”

If something is important enough, he noted, money can always be found.

In the late 1990s Mr. Griffiths was instrumental in helping to revitalize the Langley Field Naturalists, serving as president for a number of years, and drawing his longtime friend Bob Puls into the LFN fold.

Puls, who has served as LFN president for the past 10 years, described Mr. Griffiths as “the keeper of Brydon Lagoon.”

“He lived on site, so he was a watchman,” said Puls.

“He was essentially my mentor. What I will really miss is he used to phone me every day to check up on me and make sure I was doing my job.

“That’s not what he would say of course,” Puls chuckled.

“I’m going to miss those calls.”

Fellow Langley Field Naturalists Al and Jude Grass remembered Mr. Griffiths as a passionate advocate for the environment, who held politicians’ feet to the fire.

“He was a wonderful naturalist and conservationist and a kindred spirit — someone I could talk to about any number of subjects,” said Al Grass.

He recalled sitting with Mr. Griffiths in his kitchen, enjoying a cup of tea and watching the waterfowl on the lagoon.

“He was a wonderful man, a wonderful human being … he cared about people and he cared about the community.

“I’m going to miss him a lot,” said Al.

“He was a true gentleman,” said Jude Grass.

Another group that benefited from Mr. Griffiths’ passion for nature, is the Langley Environmental Partners Society, where he served as director.

In addition to his environmental work, Mr. Griffiths also volunteered with Douglas Park school’s breakfast program, showing up at 7.30 to cook scrambled eggs for students.

During his time in Langley, Mr. Griffiths received the Legacy Stewardship and BC Nature’s Service awards and was honoured as Langley City’s Senior Citizen of the Year and as a Langley City Special Volunteer.

In recognition of his wide ranging contributions to the community, he was also among Canada’s recipients of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012.

He was president of Pollution Probe in North Bay 1969-72, and active environmental organization in Ontario. There, he received the Dorothy Walford Memorial Award in 1971.

Mr. Griffiths is survived by his wife Annabel and sons Peter and Tony. He was predeceased by his son David.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, at St. George’s Anglican Church in Fort Langley.

 

Rhys and Annabel Griffiths stand outside their home next to Brydon Lagoon. Langley Times file photo

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