October 23, 2011
I’m a huge geek when it comes to history. I especially love British Columbian history so when I was in Kelowna last week I thought I’d track down the grave of the one of British Columbia’s most colourful and influential historic figures.
Peter Gzowski described W.A.C. Bennett as “the man who for the 20 years he served as premier was British Columbia and in the hearts and minds of many people still is.” Gzowski spoke those words in 1977 and I think they still hold true to this day.
Bennett served as premier (or prime minister) under the conservative and populist BC Social Credit banner from 1952 until 1972 – the longest tenure of any premier.
He oversaw rapid development of British Columbian industry and infrastructure. Among his accomplishments he nationalised the ferry system, expanded post-secondary education, and created BC Hydro, a public electric utility. The W.A.C. Bennett Dam and the W.A.C. Library at Simon Fraser University are both named in his honour.
Most deceased premiers are buried in Victoria and their grave markers are usually indistinguishable from those on surrounding plots. Bennett’s memorial, however, is quite ostentatious.
His grave site is marked with a large tombstone standing approximately 1.5 metres (about 5 feet). The tombstone is surrounded by a small park which includes six above ground monuments as well as a memorial wall. The two above ground monuments in front of the tombstone, which loosely resemble coffin lids, are fronted with markers for both Bennett and his wife May Richards Bennett.
The grave site, which has been developed and marketed as a centrepiece of the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery, pays tribute to Bennett’s free market ideology. For $2,110 you can have your ashes interned in the monument over Bennett’s grave.
These days the B.C. Social Credit are largely inactive so there’s little hope of ever voting them back into government again. You can, however, spend the rest of eternity with W.A.C. Bennett in this last plot of Social Credit dirt.