Two weavers of cultural fabric

Without a strong cultural fabric, a community is a sterile and half-dead place.

Langley lost two important pillars of the community in recent weeks. Neither ever ran for office (although one was married to a Township mayor), but both influenced many organizations, and were deeply involved in the cultural fabric of the community.

A community can have lots of homes and businesses, and a strong economy, but without a strong cultural fabric, it is a sterile and half-dead place. Both Iris Preston and Kay Kells worked hard to ensure that Langley wasn’t that kind of community.

Iris Preston was unusual for her generation — she had a university education and several related jobs in her field of nutrition and dietary management before she married George Preston.

She was part of a well-known family of car dealers, the Wolfe family, and the family connection and George’s love of cars (General Motors cars in particular) ensured that they would be in the car business. They settled on Langley, taking over Steele-Nicholson Motors and turning Preston Chev-Olds into a significant dealer and a Langley business leader.

Both George and Iris didn’t take their success for granted. They gave back immeasurably to the community, taking part in virtually every fundraiser there was.

Iris loved music and much of her involvement in Langley involved musical organizations, notably the Langley Community Music School, one of the most vibrant and longstanding Langley cultural groups. She was also involved with the Fort Festival and On Stage Langley, led singing and handbell groups and was a member of the Vancouver Bach Choir.

She was also a key participant in numerous other organizations which made Langley a better place, notably the Langley Hospice Society. It was fitting that she was named Langley senior of the year in 2005,even though she said at the time that she didn’t think of herself as a senior.

Kay Kells came from one pioneer family (the McVicars), and married into another (the Kells).

She was passionate about the history of Langley, and particularly that area of Langley once known as West Langley, which is now best-known as Walnut Grove.

Kay wrote several history books to record pivotal details about the early days of that community, when it was both rural and remote from much of the rest of Langley. One of her books, “A Countryside Lost to Progress” gives crucial details about the early landowners,names of roads, and where early-day settlers actually lived. She was one of the few who was aware of the deep connections between Willoughby and West Langley, and how those were all but severed when Highway 1 was built in the 1960s.

The effects of Highway 1 construction on Fraser Valley municipalities has largely gone unrecorded, yet was crucial in how communities developed.

Kay was a strong believer in preserving Langley’s heritage, and was also a very proud resident of Langley as it is today. She loved the community and all the things that make it unique.

Langley is a much better place for the contributions of these two women. Our strong cultural fabric contains a lot of threads they have woven into it.