February 14, 1928 – December 12, 2021
It is with profound sadness that we are announcing the passing of Don Braithwaite. Don passed December 12 at 3:12 pm, surrounded by loved ones. Don is survived by his loving wife Elsie and his children Brian (Dodie), Gordon, Don (Charity), Kathleen (Ryan) and his grandchildren: Connor, Lauren, Eric, Troy, Wyatt, and Hunter.
Don was born in Auckland, New Zealand and came to Victoria, B.C. as an infant with his family. Don grew up in the Highlands area of Victoria on the family farm and learned to operate machinery and drive trucks at a young age. When Don was 12 years old WW2 was happening, all the young men on the South Island were fighting overseas and anyone too old for war was working in the shipyards. This was his big break as the government hired him and gave him a special air brake license to drive gravel truck for the highways dept. (He kept his air brake licence for 78 years, until the age of 90). From this time on his love of trucks and charisma led him to many opportunities. Don soon learned to drive off highway logging trucks and worked at various camps on the Island until he came to Mead Creek near Lake Cowichan. The manager took a liking to him and offered to let him take over the trucking contract. In a short time, he acquired over 20 off highway log trucks. The Hayse trucks were his favorite. He was always proud to claim to us that he had the largest private owned fleet of off highway logging trucks in B.C. at the time. As the trucks became spread out in different locations all over the coast and various inlets Don decided he needed to get his pilot’s license to manage the operation more efficiently. He soon bought his first float plane and little did he know his next big adventure was about to begin. At this time, he also had a logging camp of his own in Knight Inlet and needed a place in Campbell River to dock his plane. Trans Mountain Air at the Spit had room for him at their dock. A short time later he became a partner in Trans Mountain Air then eventually bought the company in 1967. During this time the coast was booming with hundreds of logging camps and isolated communities needing people and freight moved. The Campbell River Spit was the busiest floatplane base in North America and Don’s little airline got bigger and bigger. Through a series of takeovers and buyouts of other airlines he changed the name to Gulf Air. Gulf Air grew to 25 airplanes at the busiest. In 1980 Jim Patterson was making offers and buying up all of the smaller airlines to form Air B.C. Don eventually sold Gulf Air to Uncle Jimmy, as he jokingly called him. Don went back to driving logging trucks and after a few years D&D Equipment Sales was formed to advertise and sell surplus logging equipment for his many friends and customers. More trucks were soon needed to pick up and deliver the various equipment and this was the start of West coast Hauling. Don soon got trucking contracts with the fish farms and also began washing the fish farm nets.
He worked every day until age 90 and loved every minute of it. Don lived his life by the mantra “No Risk, No Gain” and was always willing to take a chance in life and business. This somehow usually worked out in his favor. Don leaves us all with many cherished stories, and happy memories. He will be sadly missed by his family and many friends. Don had a great life, one that touched innumerable people, and was successful by any measure. Many lifelong friendships were made along the way, though the survivors of his generation are becoming fewer. We like to think he is now out flying his favorite Beaver airplane or catching up with his many old friends that had passed before him.
The family would like to thank Dr. Sutherland for many years of care, and the staff at Yuculta Lodge, where Don spent the last 7 months. A reception for family and friends will be announced in the spring of 2022. No service by request. In lieu of flowers, take a walk with your family and enjoy the beautiful scenery we are so lucky to be surrounded by. Dad always said, “we live in the most beautiful place in the world, enjoy it while you can”.Obituary
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