The adventure-filled relationship of Bernard and Victoria Gordon from Invermere hasn’t eased, despite the couple, now in their 80s, having both retired more than 20 years ago.
Most recently, they spiced up their marriage with a scuba diving adventure in the Mayan Riviera in Mexico.
The trip offered priceless therapy. Before their departure in December, doctors expressed concerns over Bernard’s health, asking Victoria if she could afford to return his body under the worst of circumstances.
“Instead, we put him in the ocean and he just became a fish,” Victoria said. “He was totally revived.”
Bernard was encouraged to snub the doctors’ concerns by a nephew who was also on the vacation.
“His nephew talked him into anything and convinced him that he could,” Victoria said. “Even walking to the pool — I was going to take Bernard in the wheelchair, and (his nephew) said, ‘No, he can walk.’ And then Bernard just walked.”
The nurturing effects of hot springs seem to have played a large role in Bernard’s love for warm water, as he’s been extensively involved with both resort communities in the valley.
Bernard’s father, Alexander Gordon, was born in Scotland in 1897. When Alexander was 14 years old in 1911, he was summoned by Randolph Bruce to help with the construction of what is today the Pynelogs Cultural Centre. When Alexander was 17, the First World War broke out, and he lied slightly about his age to be able to serve. Near the end of the war, he was discharged after “he got his butt shot off,” Victoria said. As a result, King George of England commended him for his service through a handwritten letter.
Upon his return to Canada, Alexander was hired by the federal government to work as the foreman of the development of the Radium Hot Pools. Upon completion in 1923, Alexander was then running the operation.
Bernard was born shortly after in 1928, which gave him unlimited access to the hot pools as a birthright.
But when his sister outgrew the elementary school in Radium, his family moved to Invermere, where he and his siblings would be able to attend David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS).
Living in Invermere as a student, Bernard had to walk to school every day from the outskirts of town near the cattleguard down Westside Road.
Bernard graduated from DTSS in 1948, and found employment shortly after with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He began his post in Invermere and, as a telegraph operator, he was sent around the province to communicate with conductors through morse code.
“I’d tell the next train that came through which way it needs to go,” he said.
After decades of working on the railroad, Bernard’s entrepreneurial brother-in-law, Lloyd Wilder, had some big plans in mind.
Having become the sole proprietor of property in Fairmont Hot Spring in 1965, Lloyd invested in building the massive resort that’s still there today. And right from the beginning, he appointed Bernard to be the general manager.
As the general manager, Bernard was responsible for much of the hiring. In 1975, when a transient teacher was looking for work during the summer, he was impressed by how she was wearing a sexy, white Elvis Presley suit.
Victoria was given a job, but her original duties at the resort didn’t allow Bernard enough opportunity to see his favourite new recruit.
“I don’t think I worked for more than two weeks at the front desk before you expelled me to the pools, where you could see me daily,” Victoria recalled to Bernard.
For 15 years before coming to the valley, Victoria had been teaching north of the Arctic Circle in a remote tundra community.
Instead of passing through the valley as she originally intended, Victoria’s relationship with Bernard anchored her.
It wasn’t long after they met that they became a couple. It was 17 years of courting before they were married, however.
In 1995, “he was going to retire, and he decided, ‘Well, I can’t retire alone’,” Victoria said. “So he came home early from his holiday break, and he knocked at my door and he had an engagement ring.”
After their prolonged courtship, some friends were in disbelief to hear news of the wedding. Despite photographic evidence, a teaching colleague suggested that Victoria would maybe pose in a wedding dress for the sake of the argument. But another teacher knew the wedding was legitimate, stating, “Yeah, but Bernard wouldn’t dress up.”
In the early-to-mid 1990s, shortly before their marriage, the two spent a year together teaching English in China. That adventure was prompted after Victoria retired from the public school system, but wasn’t ready to end her career.
When they were living in the valley together, Bernard and Victoria embraced the local wilderness, backpacking through every trail in the Kootenay National Park.
Their latest trip to Mexico is a refreshing reminder of this unique couple’s need for adventure. Having been born into the family responsible for running Radium Hot Springs in the early days, and managing operations for the first 27 years of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, it was time for Bernard to get back into some warm water.