At age 94, Ken Dunlop is quick-witted, sharp, dedicated and a storyteller. He is also the active greenskeeper at Powell River Lawn Bowling Club, a title which began in 1948 before he took a break to marry and raise a family, which included managing local little league baseball.
Dunlop celebrated his 70th wedding anniversary to Barbara Ruth in May; they’ve been together since she was 15 years old. He returned to the lawn bowling club in 1988 and has held his current position as greenskeeper continuously for the last 32 years.
When he first started the position, the Powell River Company used to pay him $125 per month, however, it is all volunteer now and simply a labour of love.
“If you’re getting older and you’re working like he does and has been for many years, it’s quite special,” said fellow member Pieter Raubenheimer. “I started researching all over the world and I could not come across a person anywhere that’s at 94 years of age and still being an active greenskeeper of a bowling club, and has been for so long.”
Dunlop used to cut the grass three days a week with one day of maintenance, but this year, with the number of members and fewer people allowed on the green at once, he’s been cutting it every Monday with maintenance on Thursdays.
“He cuts the grass and then when it’s quiet and nobody’s watching he has a game of bowls by himself,” says former club president Edith Holmes.
A second-generation member, Dunlop received his lifetime membership in 1998.
In addition to all the time spent cutting, fertilizing, aerating and irrigating, he maintains all of the blades and equipment he uses.
Clubs from Vancouver and Vancouver Island have sought out Dunlop’s guidance and expertise on taking care of their greens.
“When you’re looking at a greenskeeper, it’s a work of passion, because there are no instant results,” said Raubenheimer. “You are very dependent on the weather, the soil and the help you get.”
Dunlop said he has been doing it for so many years he probably knows every blade of grass at the club, which is still at its original location in Townsite. His attention is required to keep members, and the grass, content and ready for play.
“The grass was too dense and wasn’t draining and people said the green was awful, so I aerated it and now they walk in and it’s green,” said Dunlop.
The basement at his Townsite home, which he has lived in since 1957, is a record of memories. Quite the bowler himself, there is no shortage of trophies, accolades photos and newspaper clippings.
Next year will be an exciting time for the club. Current president Elaine Marentette said members will be celebrating its centennial year. The original opening ceremony was held in May of 1921.
The season usually keeps Dunlop busy from April to September.
“It’s usually a two week job getting ready for the winter, so I usually shut down the last week of September,” said Dunlop, who raises the Canadian flag at the club every year to commence the start of the season.
Dunlop has tirelessly given so much to his community and his hard work, effort and dedication are clearly appreciated and admired by those fortunate enough to know him, according to members and those who benefit from the best-kept lawn bowling green around.