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Popular former city politician dies

Former New Westminster alderman and school trustee Wes Janzen passed away Sunday morning at the age of 91.

Former New Westminster alderman and school trustee Wes Janzen passed away Sunday morning at the age of 91.

Janzen, who lived in the Moody Park area for most of his life before moving to the George Derby Centre in Burnaby, was also a teacher and volunteer who gave back to his community.

Born in Herbert, Sask. on Aug. 3, 1920, Janzen served in the military before becoming a teacher and high school principal in Surrey.

Janzen was very politically active, serving as president of the Surrey Teachers' Association, the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the Canadian Teachers' Federation before becoming a New Westminster school trustee in the 1970s.

He stepped down from that job to run as an alderman, where he served for almost a decade in the 1980s.

Janzen was proud of his involvement with the NDP party, where he is an honorary lifetime member.

Outside of politics, Janzen was active in the Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church, where he served as a trustee, and with the Royal Columbian Hospital board.

He married his high school sweetheart, Laura, and they were married for 58 years before Laura's passing.

Wes is survived by many fam-ily members, including children Bob (Valerie), James (Marianne), Kathy (Wes) and Paul (Charlene); nephew Warren (Sandra); grandchildren Alison, Jennifer, Kathleen, Janet, Charlotte, Sumiko and Shoji; grandnephews Andrew and Ian; sister Elvira Wellburn (Ken); and many nieces and nephews.

Son James, currently the chair of the New Westminster board of education, remembers his father fondly.

"He was a terrific role model, a great educator in both his personal and professional life," said James. "He was a pillar of his community and in his church and in every aspect of his life."

James said his interest in education and politics came from his parents - James' mother was also a teacher - and he has many favourite memories of his dad.

"Because he was a teacher, we would do a lot of projects around the house in the summer," James said of their family home on Eighth Avenue.

"I remember doing things with him, chatting and just having a great time with my dad."

Wes Janzen was also wellknown in the community for being the first person in the city to get his NDP sign erected on his lawn when an election writ was dropped.

New Westminster MLA Dawn Black, who also served federally as a New Westminster MP, remembers meeting Janzen in the 1970s when both worked on the election campaigns of Dennis Cocke and Pauline Jewett. When Black became a candidate, Janzen was one of her most active volunteers.

"The thing you knew you got with Wes was he was always willing to do whatever needed to be done," said Black. "He'd be the guy who got all your signs up and he would sweep, clean up, take out the garbage. No job was below him. He was always willing to do the jobs nobody else would do."

Black said Janzen's energy never left him, even after he lost his vision.

"He would still be walking to the park and the mall and bopping around town," said Black. "He loved being in the city."

School trustee Michael Ewen's life and career have intersected with Janzen's since the 1970s.

"I did my practicum (as a teacher) at the school where he was an administrator," said Ewen. "And when he ran for council, that's when I ran for school trustee, taking the seat (that was once his)."

Ewen said Janzen was someone he could watch and learn from.

"What I remember about Wes was that in the cut and thrust of politics, he remained the ultimate gentleman," said Ewen. "He had that ability to ask the critical question that cut to the heart of a matter. He could make the key point in Wes-like fashion. ... Everybody listened to Wes. When Wes Janzen spoke, people listened."

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr 's history with Janzen goes back to the 1960s, when, as a child, he watched his father and Janzen start up the South Westminster wing of the NDP.

By 1978, when Puchmayr himself started to become more politically active, his path would often cross with Janzen's.

Like Black, Puchmayr remembers a kind man who would do any job asked of him, but it was something else about Janzen that stuck with Puchmayr.

"He was a fan of the old-style Tommy Douglas speakers," he said. "What Wes loved to see in young candidates was people with fire in their belly. I wasn't sure I could meet that (expectation), but I'll always remember Wes for telling us that we needed to have fire in our bellies."

Janzen's service will be held at Shiloh-Sixth Avenue United Church at 1111 Sixth Ave. on Saturday at 2 p.m.