Last week, M.D. of Lesser Slave River Councillor Brian Rosche died. At 68, he just retired from a long career in Slave Lake aviation.
“He, Brian, was truly weaved into the fabric of the north,” says friend and colleague M.D CAO Allan Winarski. “He was part of another era. He was a great guy. I truly can’t believe he’s gone. We were supposed to hit golf balls.”
“He was a very generous person,” says Brian’s wife Amy Wright-Rosche. “He will be sorely missed by his family and the community. He was always approachable.”
M.D. reeve Murray Kerik describes Brian as “a little guy with a big heart, who we’re going to miss for a very long time. I tend to move a little fast. He slowed me down a bit. He never worried about himself. What you saw was what you got. I don’t know anybody who didn’t like him.”
Originally from Dresden, Ontario, Brian moved to Slave Lake in 1976, when he was about 24.
Long-time family friend Antoinette Vance says, “he was just a kid really, about 25 or 26.” At the time, his brother was working for Peace Air in Peace River. Rosche had worked in the eastern Arctic and then in Terrace, BC before moving to Slave Lake.
In 1978, Brian got his pilots license in Slave Lake and started flying air ambulance.
The Slave Lake area was “still bush pilot flying back then,” says Amy.
Around the same time, Antoinette’s son, Brian Vance got his pilot’s license as a teenager and flew out of the Slave Lake Airport.
“That’s where I met Brian,” he says, “through the airport. We used to call him the old guy. He must have been 23.”
“There were very few helicopters then,” Brian Vance says. “There were airplanes all over this country.” These were used to deliver supplies to fire watch towers, for other forestry work, to take medical workers to remote communities, as an air ambulance and to inspect pipelines. At the time, the air ambulance was just a regular plane with the seats removed.
Brian originally lived in Slave Lake then moved to Widewater.
Brian’s house burnt down twice, says Brian Vance. The first time, a dog knocked over a heat lamp in the middle of the night. The second time was the 2011 Slave Lake Fire.
While Rosche was rebuilding his first house, he met his wife Amy.
“We met through a friend, Dr. Terri Heisler,” she says. They were married in 1984. Amy has two sons Jesse and Scott Roberts, who became Brian’s stepsons. In the early 1990s, Brian and Amy adopted Mimsong Rosche from Thailand.
At around the same time, they started attending St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church in Slave Lake. Brian was very involved in the church and spent some time on the board.
Brian wasn’t a helicopter pilot, but was involved with the start of Remote Helicopters with the late Billy Lukan. He worked there for 34 years and recently retired.
“He had a lot of interests,” says Amy. “His first love was flying, sailing his second, fishing was his third, and travelling was his fourth.”
Brian was on M.D. council from around 2005 or 2006.
“He wanted to give back to the community,” says Amy. “‘Roads, Rights, and the River’ that was his platform from the beginning to the end.”
“Brian was the longest serving board member of the LSWC (Lesser Slave Watershed Council),” says LSWC executive director Meghan Payne in an email. “He was involved when it was a committee of concerned citizens starting in 2004 and was involved in the drafting of bylaws and registering as a nonprofit society in 2006 so that the LSWC could take on their role as the Watershed Planning and Advisory Council in 2007.”
She continues, “He was always super supportive of me, even when I was 23 and new and didn’t have a clue. I remember my job interview was at the M.D. of Lesser Slave River office. I walked in and there were four gruff-looking older men sitting at a table, and there was one chair in front of them. I felt like I was going for a disciplinary hearing. I was sweating bullets, but Brian’s smile put me at ease somewhat.”
Amy and Brian lost their house in the 2011 Slave Lake Fire. They also lost all of the information for the Rainbow Project, which granted wishes for dying children. For over 15 years, they organized mystery supper fundraisers for this project.
“It was really fun,” says Amy.
During and after the 2011 Slave Lake Fire, the relationship between the Town of Slave Lake, the M.D., and Sawridge First Nation improved, says mayor Tyler Warman. “His (Brian’s) insights, opinions and leadership helped shape our current relationship,” says Warman. “He was always very patient and put his heart into everything he did.”
“You couldn’t ask for a better friend,” says Winarski. He “doggedly pursued” projects: including the first rescue boat. Not everyone else saw the need, but Brian made it happen and the boat has saved many people. He was also very passionate about getting a proper building for Slave Lake EMS, a project which isn’t complete.
Rosche’s funeral is 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 29. People wishing to attend can enter code 9317840532 at zoom.us/join. The funeral at St. Peter’s Ecumenical Church in Slave Lake is limited to family.