It’s been two years since local naturalist, historian, and World War II veteran Ron Mayo passed away at the age of 91.
Ron led a rich and varied life. He served with distinction in the British Army, first in the infantry and then in the survey department. Mayo credits his survival to ‘damn luck.’ As he told CMNews in 2010, “Of the thirty guys I joined up with, all local guys from where I grew up, I could only find five of them after the war. I found a couple of their graves when I was walking through Normandy. I was just damn lucky.”
A born naturalist, Ron took every chance he had to explore whatever environment he found himself in. Even during the war, when he wasn’t drawing maps in the survey department, Ron was off exploring the countryside.
He found England too crowded after the war, so he moved to Canada. He ended up in the Okanagan and then Prince George. In 1965 he started coming down to Bella Coola for the steelhead fishing, forming a lifelong connection with the owners of Stuie Place (then known as the Talchako Lodge). In 1986 he moved down to Stuie and stayed there until he was 80 years old.
Ron devoted all of his time to observing nature and caretaking the Stuie property for Dennis Kuch and Katie Hayhurst. After he passed away in 2012, Joan Sawicki (the Executor of Ron’s estate) worked to fulfill his wishes that his natural history collection be made available to residents of Bella Coola.
“With his extensive library of books, slides, film and video of natural history in the Valley, it has been a large task,” explained Sawicki. “However, I know Ron would be pleased that, with the cooperation of our local librarian and the Bella Coola Valley Museum Society, people in the community can now enjoy his life’s work.”
A selection of Ron’s books have been set up as a special collection on a special shelf at the local library; they can be taken out on loan and some of his plaster casts of animal footprints now hang on the wall of the library above the book collection.
“Any item in the collection can be signed out just like any other library item,” said librarian Linda Chapman. “We are very fortunate that all of this valuable local information is now available to the public.”
Thanks to the generosity of Ron’s family in England, who wanted their share of the estate donated to the community that Ron loved, a donation was made to BCV Museum Society to enable a contract to convert 10 of Ron’s VHS video tapes to DVDs. The originals will remain the property of the BCVMS but copies are now available to be taken out on loan from the local library.