Dr A.W. “Al” Mooney died suddenly at his home in Fort St. James in his 92nd year. His wife, Janey, predeceased him but they left a large family of children and grandchildren and a grateful community to mourn their passing.
Al was born in Crawford Bay on Kootenay Lake in 1915. Later his family moved to Vancouver, where he went to UBC to obtain a BA in 1935. After teacher training he taught at both north and south Burnaby high schools and he met Janey Findley. After their marriage they moved to Edmonton and the University of Alberta where he did his medical training. He had an outstanding academic history at all levels of his education. They returned to Vancouver and St. Paul’s Hospital for his internship and a year of surgical residency.
He had his eye out for a rural practice and he chose Vanderhoof in 1947. The community was serviced by a 50-bed Catholic hospital, but medical services were patchy for the several thousand people in the area. Construction of a Nechako River Dam was on the horizon, with approximately 2000 people on site. In addition, the First Nations population of the greater area of northeastern BC was in need of medical care, and he obtained a contract for their care.
He wasted no time in entering local politics as a town councilor and he soon became a driving force in the village’s development. In a few years, water, sewer, and modern electricity and telephone systems were in place, and fire services, paved streets, municipal offices, a public library, and a district high school (which bears his name) arrived in rapid succession.
When he was able to get medical help in 1952, he groomed them, and then he took two-and-a-half-years to return to the University Hospital in Edmonton where he got his fellowship in surgery.
Soon after his homecoming he was asked to join the school board and once again he sparked development as high schools were built in Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, and Fraser Lake. He was also involved in the campaign to open a regional college in Prince George, and today the College of New Caledonia has 4000 students and there are several peripheral centres in the greater area, including Vanderhoof. Another area of interest was radio communication, and he contributed to its development as an educational tool, particularly for isolated areas where winter weather made school attendance very difficult.
His hobby was farming, and over the years he put together 2050 acres of land with 1500 acres seeded in grains and a cattle ranch on the side.
He was recognized for his career of service with the Citizen of the Year by the Vanderhoof Rotary Club in 1967. Later he received the Queen’s Medal for community service in 1992, and the Governor General’s Medal for community service in 2002.
These are just some of the highlights of an energetic pioneer physician, surgeon, and builder who went into the country north of 54 with a vision of the future and the energy to live two lives, one being a good doctor and the other a leading figure in community growth and development.
—C.E. McDonnell, MD
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