For a lot of people Gord Cargill exemplified the spirit of the Festival of Lights, and especially the spirit that flows Light-Up night, when thousands of bulbs are switched on for the thousands of residents and guests who flock to Ladysmith’s First Avenue for the ‘official start’ to Christmas.
“It was the start of Christmas for him,” said Bev Cargill, who was married to Gord 49 years, before he passed away in May.
Since moving here in 1993 from Cochrane, AB, about 20 km west of Calgary, the Cargills became more and more a part of the Festival of Lights, and it became part of them.
From putting up signage, to installing rooftop decorations on buildings in town (a job Gord directed), to eventually playing Santa, and pulling the big switch that lights up the town, Gord was in the thick of the event.
For Gord and a lot of other volunteers, the FOL was almost year-round. “He worked on the Festival of Lights stuff throughout the summer,” Bev recalls, remembering days Gord and companions would be at the FOL building on Fourth Ave, replacing light bulbs and refurbishing decorations for the year to come.
“Sometimes it got frustrating,” she said of Gord’s level of commitment.
But contributing to community brings in a return all its own. “It just makes you feel good,” Bev said of the rewards that come to people, who volunteer for events like the Festival of Lights.
“I think you just do it – it’s not that you don’t have anything else to do – you just do it.”
One of the highlights for Gord was always Light-Up, an occasion he presided over for several years as the Santa who pulled the big switch that turned on the town’s decorations.
Bev recalls friends and family wondering where Gord was the first time he took on the role, and fretting he would miss the dazzling event, which he poured so much energy into, until they saw him up there on the roof.
She still has the Santa costume she made specially for the role carefully packed away in their Ladysmith home.
His usual commitment was less flamboyant, though. Gord grew up on a large farm in Alberta, and the Cargills still farmed during the years they raised their sons in Cochrane. His mainstay, though, was as a welder, and welding instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
The skills and attitudes he learned over the course of a lifetime were part of his contribution to the Festival Of Lights.
He created a book that mapped out where the lights and decorations were to go – the FOL ‘bible’ that is still in use, Bev believes.
While the lights were up, he would be checking nightly to make sure all was well. “Every day he would drive the town to check on all the lights he put up,” Bev recalled.
You get a sense that the spirit of Gord Cargill is still looking down on this twinkling town, from Light-Up to take down, to make sure all’s well.