The 101-year-old widow of the last Mayor of the Village of Abbotsford

By Dawn Emile. With the elections for Abbotsford city council just behind us and a new mayor elected, it seemed appropriate to write about Abbotsford’s last mayor, that is, not Bruce Banman, but Peter Bentley Crocker, the Mayor of the Village of Abbotsford just before the District of Sumas and the Village amalgamated to become the District of Abbotsford.

Cover photo: Mae Crocker, December 25, 2014, aged 101-years.

I learned about this mayor from his widow, Mae, whom I met some time ago when I first moved to Abbotsford. She is now 101 years old and still enjoys living in Abbotsford over by Mill Lake.

The Village of Abbotsford

This fact intrigued me and I thought it would be of interest to present citizens of Abbotsford to find out what the Village of Abbotsford was like from someone who was not only significantly involved in the community but has spent the majority of her long life here. I also thought it worthwhile to find out how she views the changes that have taken place in Abbotsford during that time.

The Village of Abbotsford was incorporated in 1892 and had its own mayor until amalgamating with the District of Sumas in 1972. This physical change brought a change in mayor and George Ferguson became the mayor taking over from Peter Crocker.

I was privileged to have a short and delightful interview with Mayor Crocker’s widow, a great, great- grandmother, in her home this month. Although it has been over forty years, Mae was still noticeably excited to talk about the time when her husband was mayor of the Village of Abbotsford.

Tiny and grey-haired, but elegantly dressed in dark trousers and stylist jacket, Mae showed me a somewhat faded, black and white photograph of herself and her husband greeting Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip. Opportunely for them, the Queen and her consort were visiting Vancouver in 1971 which was during the short period Peter was Mayor of the Village of Abbotsford and therefore invited to be part of the official welcoming party.

Mayor Peter Crocker greets Queen Elizabeth II at the Abbotsford airport, 1971.  Mae Crocker, his wife stands to the left of the mayor.  Prince Phillip is second right from the Queen.

Mayor Peter Crocker greets Queen Elizabeth II at the Abbotsford airport, 1971. Mae Crocker, his wife stands to the left of the mayor. Prince Phillip is second right from the Queen.

This was the highlight of his mayoralty which only ran two-and-a-half years. Peter Bentley Crocker was the owner of P.B. Crocker’s Real Estate and Insurance on Essendene Avenue, a business he ran for thirty-five years. Peter died in 1998 at the age of ninety.

Mae outlived him and her last contact with the Queen was the official letter she received when she turned 100 years old. Little did the Queen’s office know that the Queen had actually met the recipient of this particular letter.

Everyone knew each other

I asked if Mae knew that Abbotsford had a new mayor this month and Geneva, her twenty-four-hour-a-day caregiver, who was present during the interview, said that she had told her the news but that she no longer seemed interested in community politics the way she once was.

However; when asked how she thought Abbotsford had changed over the years, Mae replied in a still strong, although somewhat raspy voice:

“I liked Abbotsford best when it was still small and everyone knew each other. The traffic makes the city so busy now.”

Mae had liked driving her Mercedes Benz before advancing years made it too difficult for her to negotiate the increasingly busy Abbotsford thoroughfares. She is now just occasionally driven out. Nevertheless, Mae still enjoys her home close to Mill Lake.

After my visit, when I looked up information about Abbotsford on the internet, Wikipedia informed me that in 1971 Abbotsford had a population of 706, so it is not surprising that everyone knew each other, especially people like Mae and Peter Crocker who had moved to Abbotsford in 1942 from Terrace where they had married after having met in college. They had four children born in Abbotsford who now live in various parts of the lower mainland.

It is no surprise that Mae finds the streets of Abbotsford increasingly busy. After amalgamating with the District of Sumas, Wikipedia notes that the District of Abbotsford had a population of 9, 507 in 1976.

In 1995, the District of Abbotsford again increased in size and population when the District of Matsqui also amalgamated with Abbotsford making the City of Abbotsford. In 1996, a population of 105, 405 was recorded for the city.

More recent, 2011 statistics, shows Abbotsford with a population of 133, 497. Probably best known for hosting the Abbotsford International Airshow out of the Abbotsford International Airport, Abbotsford also attracts people because the University of the Fraser Valley is located here, and TRADEX a commercial venue.

Currently, Wikipedia informs readers that “the City of Abbotsford comprises a council-manager form of local government. The new mayor and council were elected on November 15, 2014. The new mayor is Henry Braun”.

While Abbotsford is seeing rapid growth (one educated estimate puts the present population at approximately 140, 000), it is good to know that there is still at least one citizen living here who can supply first-hand accounts of Abbotsford’s beginnings. Mae is still independently mobile with the aid of a walker and during my visit demonstrated a sense of humour and interest in others that continues to show her strength of mind. Congratulations Mae on your long life. May you have many more happy years here in Abbotsford.

Abbotsford facts: Census subdivision of Abbotsford, CY…/Facts-csd-eng.cfm?…

Wikipedia. 2014. “Mayors of Abbotsford.” Retrieved December 26, 2014

Editor’s note: Emile Daw is a journalism student in Professor Eric Spalding course at the University of the Fraser Valley. Today Media regularly published work by journalism students in order to support their efforts in an important vocation.

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