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In memory: Award-winning Prince George author Brian Fawcett

Brian Fawcett, award-winning Canadian author who grew up in Prince George, has died.
thumbnail_Brian Fawcett
Award-winning Canadian author Brian Fawcett, who grew up in Prince George, has died.

Brian Fawcett, an award-winning Canadian author who grew up in Prince George, has died.

Fawcett wrote more than 20 books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and after spending time in Vancouver moved to Toronto.

Fawcett returned to Prince George often and launched one of his most successful books The Last of the Lumbermen, here in 2013. The book was about the very popular Prince George hockey team back in the 50s and 60s.

Fawcett's book Virtual Clearcut: Or, the Way Things Are in My Home Town won the Pearson Prize for non-fiction in 2004.

Human Happiness published in 2012 was shortlisted for the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence.

As a child, Fawcett attended Connaught Elementary. After it burned down, he went to King George V then off to the rebuilt Connaught Jr. High and then Prince George Senior Secondary.

Fawcett played baseball and minor hockey as he grew up.

When he was about 10 years old, the old arena collapsed. That was in the mid 50s.

"I was supposed to be there when the arena roof collapsed - an hour later I would have been underneath it, along with a bunch of other kids," said Fawcett during an interview with The Citizen in 2013. "I was due to play at 8:30 a.m. and we came down at about 7:15. I remember looking at the big pile of rubble thinking 'oh, geez'. I didn't play hockey for a couple of years because I was so frightened. A lot of things in The Last of the Lumbermen were taken from memory."

Fawcett moved to Vancouver when he was 22. After three years in the forest service, he decided he really needed to go to university. He was a charter student at Simon Fraser University.

He lived in Vancouver for about 25 years, and then he was invited to be on a television show in Toronto called Imprint for TV Ontario. The show was about books.

"I took one look at the producer of the show and that was it - for both of us," said Fawcett. They fell in love. He never thought he would leave B.C.

Fawcett was born in Prince George on May 13, 1944,  and died in Toronto on Feb 27 from a condition called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which he was diagnosed with in 2018.

The diagnosis came with a dire prediction of a living only another 26 months.

“He beat that by many, many, many months so that part was certainly a good thing for us,” Fawcett’s son Max said from his home in Calgary.

“But when we were out there for Christmas we could sorta tell things were picking up – and you know, you get used to a condition like this and trick yourself into thinking he’ll be OK with it forever and then all of a sudden things really sped up and that’s where we found ourselves.”

Fawcett is survived by his partner Fran Piccaluga, three children Jesse, Max and Hartlea, and three grandchildren, Fraser – named after the Fraser River - Matisse and Everett.

“What always struck me about my dad was he left Prince George in the early 60s but he never really left in his heart and in his mind,” Max said. “To me his best books were always the ones that were in some way about Prince George. So obviously, Virtual Clearcut, which will age incredibly well as I think you can apply that to oil and gas communities here in Alberta and forestry towns in BC. It’s a story that resonates across North America in terms of what happens in places like Prince George.”

He wasn’t exactly waving a Mr. PG flag, Max said.

“But in terms of things he talked about and the things he cared about those were all the things he learned in Prince George,” Max explained. “He took his kids up to Prince George and he had a deep affection for the community.”

When the time comes the family will return to Prince George to spread Fawcett’s ashes on the Fraser River.

“He wrote a poem a long time ago about the Cottonwood bridge heading out to Quesnel,” Max said. So that could be the ash-spreading location, he added.

There will also be a physical marker for him somewhere in Prince George so people who want to visit can do that.

“Because that’s where his heart was,” Max said.

The Last of the Lumbermen was the last major book that he put out, Max added.

“He’s got two books that are waiting to be published and that’s my job. They will be coming out as he’s been working on them for a long time.”

During a 2013 interview with The Citizen, Fawcett said he took about a decade to complete a book. He would get six or seven books on the go and worked on each one until he got stuck. Then he would shift over to another one, and while those were going he would continue to be a journalist or writes speeches.

"I'm basically a guy who writes books about Prince George even though I don't live there any more," he said.