Real People of the Sunshine Coast

“My husband Michael was the first ‘Mr. B.C.’ for body building and weight lifting”

Eileen Poppel in her house in Langdale

(by Loretta Macklam)
Eileen Poppel, who lives in Langdale, is well known around Gibsons as the organist and pianist at St Bart’s church in the 70s and 80s; she also played the piano at the Yacht Club in Gibsons and the golf club in Roberts Creek.

“I could play anything by ear, whatever people requested. Music makes me feel exhilarated. I still play the piano and sing at home for fun, mostly classical music.

“My husband and I first saw this property from the water in August 1960 when we were water skiing with our small motorboat. We immediately fell in love with it–16.5 acres with a thousand feet of waterfront–and in 1965 we were able to buy it from the YMCA. Somebody had left it to them in their will. As you can guess, it is on YMCA Road in Langdale. We designed the house ourselves and it was built in 1969. We moved here in April 1970 after we sold our house on Jericho Beach.

“Michael and I liked to entertain. On special occasions we used to have 60 to 80 people in our home. The house has a beautiful view of Howe Sound towards Squamish, and Keats and Bowen Islands. I love to look out in all weather.

“We also liked cars. I had a 1930 Excalibur, manufactured by the Excalibur motorcar company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Between 1987 and 2014, I drove Golden Girls in it in the Sea Cavalcade in Gibsons. Michael drove previous years’ Golden Girls in our white Cadillac convertible. We threw candies to the kids along the route.

“I was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. In 1946 my father, an accountant with the CPR, was transferred to Vancouver. I was 15 years old. In Kitsilano High School, just as I entered grade 10, I met Michael Poppel who was 16 and very handsome. At 16, Michael became British Columbia’s first ‘Mr B.C.’ for body building and weight lifting. He looked so good and he was so nice! We got married on October 31,1953—Hallowe’en—at Saint Mark’s Anglican Church in Vancouver. We were happily married for 61 years.

“Most of his life Michael was a mortgage broker, but he started out as a lifeguard. I loved to swim as well, mostly in our 40-foot pool. I remember one day, I decided to swim from the bay to Twin Isle. After a few hours my husband became very worried and started looking for me in our 36-foot Chris Craft motorboat. When he found me, I was actually on my way back. I was very pleased to know he cared.

“We have had many pets over the years; I’m still feeding blackbirds, seagulls, squirrels, little birds and raccoons. We had one raccoon for a while that we called Randy. When we saw it with three little ones we realized we had to change her name to Randeen. We fed her Maple leaf cookies which made us very popular with the raccoon population at large. At one time, we had 30 of them hanging out in our yard.

“We’ve had a wonderful life in this community. Sadly, Michael passed away in 2014. We have had a very good life.”

Eileen Poppel is a woman of few words. A good friend recently told The Coast Clarion that with her kindness and love of animals, Eileen Poppel has donated tremendously to animal causes and animal welfare on the Coast.

Real People of the Sunshine Coast are not well-known on the Coast but have a good story to tell. It can be their life story or simply a story they are willing to share.

Real People can be your neighbour, a member of your family, a senior who grew up on the Coast, a friend or a co-worker. We are still trying to get in touch with the farmer whose passion is worms. . .

You are invited to write an instalment of Real People of the Sunshine Coast. Help with writing is available if needed. We also welcome suggestions for people to interview.

The stories are told in first person. There are no length requirements.

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