Earl Skjonsberg passed away on September 28, 2014 in Red Deer.
Earl was born in Red Deer on October 25, 1922. He grew up in Red Deer, attended school there and completed grade 10. He spent a lot of time on local farms where he enjoyed the outdoor life.
Earl served in the WW II in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a gunner on the Halifax bombers. He was involved in 31 bombing missions, flying from England to mainland Europe. He returned to Canada after the war and worked a variety of jobs including 12 years in the oil fields where he worked his way up the ladder. It was during this period that he married Betty. Betty started working at Sunshine Village and became a fixture in the ticket office for over 30 years.
In 1963 he interviewed for an assistant park warden job and won a job in Banff National Park where he worked the Healy Creek district as assistant warden to Ole Hermanrude. Earl took up alpine skiing at the age of 40. His duties with the Warden Service were providing first-aid and ski patrol duties at Sunshine Village. In 1966 he became a fulltime park warden when he accepted a transfer to Riding Mountain National Park. He lived at the Ochre River district house for 2 years. He transferred back to Banff in 1968 and moved into the government houses at the Buffalo Paddocks near the Canadian Wildlife Service lab building. The train tracks were close to the houses and they shook when the train went rumbling by. Those houses were removed and he moved into the town of Banff and lived on Squirrel Street. Centralization of the warden service started in 1969 and the district system was phased out. A backcountry patrol by saddle horse and packhorse was Earl’s favourite part of his job for many years.
Later on in his career he became a dog handler within the warden service. Dogs under his control were trained for avalanche rescue, search and rescue, to search for lost people, to search for explosives and also for drugs. Earl’s first dog was “Ruff” who was later replaced by Faro. He and Faro assisted the RCMP on several cases. Earl and Faro were involved in many winter searches involving ski accidents, avalanche rescues or recoveries and assisting with avalanche control at Sunshine Ski Hill.
A close relationship is formed between the dog and its handler and at the time Earl retired in 1982, Faro was at the end of his working life as a search dog so Earl was able to keep him and together they retired to a quarter section of land near Caroline where Earl was able to fulfill his dream of farming. He raised a bunch of horses and a few cows. He eventually moved back into Red Deer to live out his last nine years of life.
Earl & Betty had two sons David and Terry who both had lengthy careers in the national parks. David worked 34 years in Glacier National Park. He started and stayed in the Avalanche Control section, and was in charge of the program for a number of years. Terry retired after 33 years as a park warden in Banff, Kluane and Aulavik national parks. Earl is also survived by two granddaughters, Nicole and Krista and two great-grandsons Seth and David.
Earl had a wonderful sense of humour. He lived a good life, was a good neighbor and friend. He enjoyed his horses and his dog and made many friends over the years. He will be missed.
At Earl’s request there will be no service. He has been cremated and his ashes will be spread at a special place of his choosing.
Earl enjoyed his years as a park warden. His motto on the job was
” I will give you an honest 8 hours of work“.