A raucous lunch across the tracks — Don and Isobel revealed 

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"Your character is your destiny."

- Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher

Hard to know where to start when you have such a vast palette of anecdotes to recount.

Do I begin with Don's crazy cross-country epic from New Brunswick to BC in 1951 on a Triumph Speed twin motorcycle purchased from Crazy Canuck Dave Murray's dad Bill? Think about the hard miles covered on such a trip. Think about the discomforts too. After all, in those days Canada didn't even have a highway that went from sea-to-sea — MacLaurin had to cross the U.S. instead. It's a great story.

"It was lot of fun," says Don. "Bill was my best friend at university. A great guy." He pauses for a breath. "The biggest adventure, however, was saved for the return journey." He chuckles quietly. "We did it together, you know — on the same motorcycle. In September-October. We were quite the sight: me, 5'8'' on a good day, and Bill over six feet tall. And we alternated the driving chores! Now that was a trip..."

What he doesn't mention (and doesn't want me to mention) is that Dave Murray might have never reached the ski racing heights he did without a certain call Don made to his father in 1962. "Well," he admits, "I did encourage Bill to buy a lot at Whistler after we did. And he trusted my judgment." This, remember, was before any lift had been built on the mountain. The MacLaurins were living in a tent then. Trust indeed. "We were pretty good pals," says Don. "Bill knew I had his best interests at heart. As it turns out, our two families — nine children in total! — virtually grew up together on this side of the lake..."

Isobel can't help it. She has to throw in her two cents. "And Dave was a lousy babysitter," she says with that special glint in her eye. "Every time we came home the house would be a mess. There'd be pillows everywhere. It was like they'd been doing extreme gymnastics or something..."

But that's just the tip of the storytelling glacier.

What about those spring camping trips the couple took to Mt. Baker in their candy-red MG back when Whistler Mountain was still just a glint in ol' Wilhelmsen's eye? Feast your eyes on this young couple. She in belly top and shorts — fit and smiling and sexy as all get-out — while he leans against the car, proud and happy and tough and competent. An old khaki frame pack leans haphazardly in the back of the sports car. The snowbanks are huge.

"We loved those trips," says the always-effervescent Izzie, as she pulls picture after picture out of their various albums. "Skiing was such an adventure in the 1950s." She laughs. Winks. "We were fun too..."

I bet.

Maybe I should just wade right in and tell the story of the Celtic wake the MacLaurins held in March last yearfor themselves at Our Lady Of The Mountains Parish Hall. As Isobel puts it so well: "Why wait till you're dead to celebrate your life? I wanted to hear what people had to say about me in person."

Of course, you can't have a wake without a coffin. And the MacLaurins' celebration was no exception.

"About five years ago," recounts Isobel, "I told Don: 'Why don't we buy our coffins now.' So that's what we did," She takes a breath. Giggles like a little girl. "I was looking at the $20,000 coffins and thinking: 'Wow — these are beautiful.' But those weren't ours. We got the $500 pine versions instead..."

No matter. When you have an artist in the house with the kind of creative energy that Izzie possesses, even a cheap $500 coffin can be transformed into a magical container.

Say what? "I wanted to personalize them," she says, with tongue held only slightly in cheek. "I wanted them to represent who we are."

And she succeeded beautifully. Don had depictions of his beloved red MG (that they still own!) splashed all over his coffin, while Izzie had painted her trademark flowers all over hers. A riot of colours; a moment of good-humoured fun. This was exactly what the MacLaurins wanted. "She's from Irish stock," says Don. "And my family's from the Scottish Highlands. Both cultures like a good wake. So that's what we decided to do."

Here's how the invitation went: "We will have dinner n' drinkin' n' music and dancin' n' talkin' an' lyin'...and perhaps a wee dram. Hmm...What do you wear to a wake? NOT jeans! ...(it's against Isobel's religion)."

It was quite the scene. A Whistler party, I've heard, like the community hadn't seen in a long time: "It was a wake for the ages," says Arthur De Jong eschewing his usually understated manner. He even allows himself a self-conscious chortle. "I laughed so much that night. I think I had more fun at that wake than anybody rightfully deserves. They're an amazing couple those two..."

And then, of course, there's the near half-century of community service that Don has given to Whistler. Exaggerating again? You decide. Here's an excerpt from a 1973 Whistler Mountain Ski Club newsletter (written, by the way, by Judge Sam Toy):

"I am delighted to announce," starts the letter, "that we are now truly a four seasons club...On July 22nd, Don (MacLaurin) will lead a combined hiking and cairn building outing to Singing Pass...In addition to your personal gratification in (a) getting that far and (b) seeing what you will see by piling a few rocks here and there, you will be making a major contribution to mountain safety (summer and winter) in constructing the odd cairn."

Says Don: "Somebody had to do it. It was really dangerous back then. There was nothing to mark the route along the Musical Bumps. When the weather got nasty, it was really easy to get lost."

What he doesn't mention is the decades of hard work he put in between that initial outing and now, first for Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and then for the municipality. A forester by trade, Don's tireless trail-building in the valley and local mountains pretty much set the foundation for the outdoor wonderland we have today. Ask anybody: without McLaurin's patient mentoring and critical eye for the 'small stuff' (they don't call him Details Don for nothing), Whistler would simply not be the place we know and love now!

"Bob Dufour was a great ally in those early years," he recounts. "In 1990, he arranged for a meeting between me and Maury Young, Whistler Mountain's owner at the time." He pauses. A smile weaves itself across his gnome's face. "And by golly, Maury was a real enthusiast. That's when we launched an enhancement program on Whistler using and planting native species. It lasted about three to four years...and by the time we were done we had planted thousands of local plants!"

Need I mention the obvious? Don and Isobel MacLaurin are Whistler treasures. I know. I know. There are others on this list too. But short of Andy Petersen, Peter and Trudy Alder or maybe Ornulf Johnsen, these two long-time Westside Road residents have more local stories up their sleeves than most of us combined.

But it's not just their stories that enchant. It's their attitude. "Do you always wear your hair that wild," Izzie asked me out of the blue at a recent community function. I nodded, surprised a little by her forthrightness, and wondering where she was going with this. "I knew it," she responded. Laughed happily. "You really are crazy, dear. I love that. Wanna come over for lunch one day?"

Not any day though. When I phone the next morning to set up a time, Don quickly passes me to Isobel. "She's the one," he confides, "who makes all those decisions around here. Better for you to talk to her directly."

It only takes a moment for her chirpy voice to come on the line. "Michael — you want to come today?" she asks. Three beats. "But it's raining and grey," she says, brooking no opposition. "You can't come today. I want you to see the ol' place when it's sunny and at its best."

But what about my deadline? She pauses. "Don't worry," she says. "The weather will change eventually. And then I'll call you, dear. And then we can have a great lunch together and enjoy each other's stories."

The conversation is over before I know it. I've been dismissed. At least for now...

Fortunately, the good weather soon returns and my invitation to visit Sno-Use (the vintage A-Frame in which the MacLaurins still live) is once again proffered. While we sit on the sunny deck, happily admiring the stunning mountain view across the lake, Izzie pipes up in her inimitable way: "We always get a kick out of people paying millions of dollars for an 800 square foot place at Whistler." She looks around at her home. Her pride is evident. Her sense of humour strong and true. "Well, this deck alone is 750 square feet," she says with just a tickle of laughter in her voice. " I think we did pretty well with our 1961 investment. Don't you?"

— Michel is away this week. We hope you enjoyed this previously printed column —


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