Tributes are pouring in for longtime Shuswap resident Peter Kilby who was a major figure with the area’s military veterans, schools and emergency preparedness groups. Kilby died in Salmon Arm on July 7 due to complications from Parkinson’s; he was 86 years old.
Kilby’s military career began in 1951 when he enlisted in the Royal New Westminister Regiment, he earned his commission as an armoured corps officer and eventually served as a signals officer for the Royal Canadian Regiment based in London, Ontario. He left the regular army in 1963 and returned to B.C. where he remained active with a reserve unit. He would go on to command the Rocky Mountain Rangers and then the entire Pacific militia area. He rose to the rank of Brigadier General before being transferred to the supplementary reserve.
In a 2015 conversation with the Observer, Kilby detailed criticism he levied against the Canadian Forces and the federal government after leaving the army. In particular, he expressed concerns with underfunded peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Rwanda, Cyprus and Bosnia which put Canadian soldiers at risk as well as the changes to financial support for veterans made when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister.
Upon returning to B.C., the province he grew up in, Kilby began a career as a teacher. He moved to Salmon Arm in 1971 where he taught for 30 years. His wife Barbara worked as a school librarian.
“Peter is remembered fondly by the thousands of students he taught in school. Shortly after he arrived in Salmon Arm he was appointed Principal of his school. He only occupied that position for one full year and went back to teaching because he loved working directly with children,” wrote James Stanton, a lifelong friend of Kilby’s, in a letter to the Observer.
Along with the mark he made on Salmon Arm as a teacher, Kilby played a major role in what was at that time the largest evacuation in B.C.’s history when the 1998 Salmon Arm/Silver Creek wildfire roared through the area. The Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP), which hadn’t been formed yet in 1998, credits Kilby with being at the forefront of emergency preparedness in the area.
“People respected Peter because he treated everyone with respect. Our program is immeasurably better for having his involvement,” said emergency program coordinator Cathy Semchuk.
In emergency response circles Kilby was known for his ability to stay calm in crisis situations and the quiet authority his words carried.
“Peter was a caring, compassionate, dedicated professional. He excelled at everything he did but never lost touch with his humanity. He was in the truest sense a Canadian patriot,” Stanton wrote.
Kilby is survived by his wife Barbara and his children Acton Kilby and Elizabeth Spencer as well as their spouses and his three grandchildren. Kilby’s family has decided to postpone a memorial service due to the COVID-19 pandemic; they have asked that in lieu of flowers or other gifts donations be made to the North Okanagan Shuswap Brain Injury Society.