It is with heavy hearts that we report that construction icon and ICBA life member Ed Rempel passed away today, June 11. Ed and his wife of 60 years, Myrtle-Anne, are beloved members of the ICBA family and with Ed’s late brother, Ewald, founded Rempel Bros. Concrete. We grieve with Myrtle-Anne and the Rempel family today.
Rempel Bros., at one point, was the largest open shop concrete company in the province, thanks to the Rempels’ persistence in bidding, advocacy for open shop, and belief in treating their employees fairly.
The Rempels were key to open shop construction growing in B.C., as they supplied open shop builders with cement. Several times, unions tried to organize Rempel Bros., but the family had built a loyal and well-cared-for employee group, and every effort failed. If the unions had been able to certify Rempel Bros., they could have choked off the concrete supply and put non-union builders out of business. “They were far and above, in my opinion, the key to this whole thing,” says Ken Funk, another early-era ICBA member.
Myrtle-Anne recently told ICBA about the scare tactics used against Ed and her family: “At night, they would come up and down our driveway, flashing their lights. We would see the cars out there. Sometimes they’d get out of the cars and there’d be six big guys in our driveway, at our home,” she recalled. On one occasion, her 16-year-old daughter was followed in her car from school, and had to detour from the empty residence to a nearby Rempel Bros. plant before the trailing vehicle sped off. Such incidents led Myrtle-Anne’s mother to become too fearful to babysit her grandchildren, and led some of her friends to fear for their own safety if they continued to socialize with her. “The tension was so electric in the air,” she said of the mid 1970s, when Ed, Myrtle-Anne and Ewald first helped form ICBA.
During the pivotal negotiations over who would build the Expo 86 projects – open shop or building trades unions – Ed was a key contributor. It was so controversial at the time that when Ed met with Expo boss Jimmy Pattison, he was asked to get off the elevator two floors below and then take the stairs. ICBA, prompted by people like Ed Rempel, told Pattison “We’ll build Expo.” And the Rempels (with a lot of other ICBA members) did.
Our generation at ICBA stands on the shoulders of persistent, principled leaders like Ed Rempel.
A celebration of Ed’s life will be held July 9, 1:30 PM at Sevenoaks Alliance Church in Abbotsford.
Ed was father to Dr. Cheryl Holmes, Kirk W.D. Rempel, and predeceased by son Bruce Rempel; grandfather to Derek Holmes (Victoria Holmes), Meredith Holmes, Shae Rempel (Evyn Bartlett), Alyssa Rempel, Samantha Rempel; and great grandfather to Chase McCrum, Spence McCrum, Oliver Holmes, Vanessa Domina and Ricardina Rico Valen, Sydney and Elyse Bartlett.