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General News · 18th January 2014
SWEENY, Sedley Bell-Irving
November 29, 1917 - December 19, 2013
Born in England the son of Vancouverites SFC 'Ben' Sweeny and Isabel Bell-Irving. Could read at three. Spent boyhood summers messing about in small boats at Pasley Island. Educated at Shawnigan and St. George's schools and at Royal Military College of Canada, (on summer leave from which, 27 Jul '38, he was arrested and later thanked by police for breaking into, hot-wiring and driving cars clear of the CPR pier D fire minutes before the warehouse wall collapsed onto the parking area). Graduated in 1939 with a commission in the Royal Engineers. A budding artist, his cartoons were displayed in the Officers Mess. Using a typewriter he created so close a replica of a photo of Mr Roosevelt that it was sent to the President. Evacuated from Dunkirk then sent back to disable Cherbourg port facilities, escaping the second time with only the clothes on his back. Married Diana Game in 1941. Served with 8th Army from El Alamein onwards then in Sicily, Italy and Greece. Awarded Military Cross for valour at the Garigliano River crossing Jan.'44. Daughter Nicola was two when they first met. In 1946 transferred to Royal Canadian Engineers. Daughters Terry and Robin born in Vancouver. Returned to Royal Engineers in 1949; served as squadron commander at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and with British Army of the Rhine . Retired in 1957, bought a farm in Wales, and for next thirty years devoted his energies to sustainable land management, self sufficiency and, increasingly, the welfare of marginalized people. With Diana, managed an orphanage for Tibetan refugee children in Simla, India, on behalf of Save the Children Fund, subsequently founding The Society for Training in Rural Industries and Village Enterprises, through which he provided instruction and practical experience for Tibetan family groups on his farm. President, British Self Sufficiency Association; author: The Challenge of Small Holding (Oxford 1985). Made extended visits to North India and Nepal to participate in self sufficiency village and farm projects, once driving by camper van from Britain. Single again and home for keeps in 1987, he rowed a dory up the Sunshine Coast to Cortes Island, converted a fishing boat into a junk-rigged yacht, and met and married his second wife, Trude Albright. Together since 1989 they have provided spark and strong support for Cortes community initiatives including an emergency first aid and ambulance service; the Friends of Cortes Association; the Cortes Eco Forestry Society (in conjunction with the Klahoose First Nation); the Cortes Earmark Book of islander skills; and The Cooperation For Cortes Self Sufficiency. Many of the associated activities happened at Trude's Café, which he maintained for her happiness. He also instructed Cortes youth in boatbuilding and sailing. Material possessions meant nothing to him; he measured his wealth by what he could share and give away, and particularly, he said, by his many good friends who taught him so much. His answer to "How are you?" was "Useless but happy". He died just so, at 96, and was buried in Whaletown shortly before Christmas. Survived by Trude, his daughters Nicola Newton on Cortes, Terry (and Barrie) Mayne and Robin Walton in England, 7 grand- and 17 great grand-children, sister Verity and brother Roger. Cheerio, Sedley. That was quite a run. All's well that ends well!

Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province on Jan. 18, 2014