Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Bert Menger

July 21, 1977 was my 22nd birthday. I very nearly did not make that birthday. My friend Bert didn't at all.

On Monday, July 18, 1977 I was at work at Jack Fraser Men's Wear. It was about 4:00 PM when Bert came by and said he and some other friends were going to go drinking "down by the Fraser River". We did that a fair bit. He asked if I wanted to go. I asked my boss if I could leave work early and my boss said "No, you have to finish your shift." So I told Bert I would come find him later, and I stayed until about 6:30 PM.

Bert and I were both in the Business Administration program in what was then Fraser Valley College, but is now the University of the Fraser Valley. Bert was from a fairly repressed Dutch Reformed background and was stretching his wings into the world. He had a hot car, a powered up green T-Bird I think, and we would often hang around together.

Bert liked to come around to the mobile home where I lived on Clayburn Road, just outside of Abbotsford. His family lived up in Clearbrook but he would often come down either after classes or for no reason at all and we would sit around, tell stories, make jokes, and drink a few beers. We got along well together. He had other friends, lots of them from his church and from school; I was just one of them.

So back to July 18, 1977. After work I went looking for Bert and the gang. I drove down to a number of the places where we would normally have been sitting by the banks of the Fraser River on a warm summer's night, drinking beer and laughing at bad jokes. Bert and the others were not to be found, in spite of my best efforts, so I went home. After all, I was working the next day.

On Tuesday I went to work and didn't hear from Bert. This was not unusual. We most often met up on weekends or when he would randomly show up at my trailer. Then Tuesday turned into Wednesday. By Wednesday I was wondering what was going on. Then I found out.

While at work on Wednesday the RCMP came by the offices of Fraser Valley College in Chilliwack where I was doing a summer work study program. They sat some of us down and told us that Bert, along with Jon and Evert Den Hertog and Leola Guliker had been shot, murdered by the Fraser River, their bodies dumped in the water. Bert's brother Eddie escaped, fleeing into the night with the sounds of gunshots and screaming.

A man named Walter Madsen had killed all four of my friends, and nearly got Eddie too. His motive was to steal Evert's truck to use in a plot to kidnap Margaret Trudeau or some madness like that. He was a former mental patient, a schizophrenic. He stole the truck and drove off into the night after dumping the bodies of Evert, Jon, Bert and Leola into the Fraser. The pickup truck was later found covered in blood in the parking lot of Pacific Centre in downtown Vancouver.

Bert and Evert were found that night after Eddie got to the police. Jon was found a few days later. Poor Leola's body wasn't found until it washed ashore at Point Grey the following sprint. I remember going to Bert's funeral, seeing his body. I saw that grey paleness and the washed damaged from the river, the cut on his lip. That image will never leave my mind.

I often think about the moments of chance, the events that turn an ordinary day into life and death. I think about Bert a lot. I wonder what his life would have been had he not been so cruelly killed. I wonder what might have happened had my boss said "Sure, take off".

I got to live. I may have a terminal illness but I have had an amazing life. Bert didn't get that chance.


2 comments:

  1. You are lucky. Bert didn't get a chance to say good-bye to his friends and family. He didn't get a chance to check off the list of things on his bucket list. He didn't get a chance to think about life. He didn't get to experience life, the world, love, friends, marriage, divorce, being a father and grandfather, career, computers, cell phone, HDTV, getting old, taking tons of medications, achy bones & muscles, reading glasses, life insurance, etc, etc, etc. You on the other hand can do all this. You were AND are lucky in more ways than one. Enjoy life and all that it has to offer.

    Laura

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  2. I never knew that Dad. That's powerful.

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