KAMLOOPS - It is hard to sum up a man like Clarence Jules, who passed away Sept. 10 at the age of 89 and seemingly lived multiple lives.
Officially, he’ll be remembered as the popular former chief of the Kamloops Indian band. He was the man who created the Mount Paul Industrial Park in Kamloops and a founder of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
To his community, he was a respected elder and the keeper of knowledge.
But it was at his funeral that his son Manny Jules realized his father’s legacy was much more.
“I had so many people… tell me ‘Manny your dad was just like a dad to me.’ He filled the void because he was a loving and caring parent for lots and lots of people,” he says.
THE FAMILY MAN
Sept. 21 would have been Clarence and his wife Delores 63rd wedding anniversary. Manny says his mother asked her husband to hold on until that date to which he replied “Delores, it’s up to the creator now.”
They had nine children, of which Manny is the oldest. Clarence was pre-deceased by three of his children, including daughter Geraldine who died the same day as her father, Sept. 10, many years before. There are many grandchildren, great grandchildren and even one great-great grandchild in the family.
“His greatest joy was seeing those little ones,” Manny says.
He describes his father as a gentle man who loved his family deeply and who loved him in return. Manny says people gravitated towards his father because 'he loved hearing the story of your journey.'
“He was the foundation and the rock of our family; he was the patriarch.”
CLARENCE THE BOY
To Manny, his father was 'the horse whisperer.' Clarence was first put on a horse at the age of six and had a gift with equines that stuck with him for the rest of his life.
“He never considered himself a cowboy even though he was inducted into the B.C. (Cowboy) Hall of Fame.”
Clarence’s named his first horse, Tony the Wonder Horse, after the horse of his childhood hero actor and cowboy Tom Mix. Manny says his father’s colt was so attentive and well trained it would walk alongside Clarence without a bridle or saddle like a well-heeled dog.
Clarence was also a residential school survivor. Manny knows his dad suffered at the Indian School but says he tried to reconcile with his past.
“He said that what you got to do is never forget that that’s what happened to us but you got to overcome it. He said a lot of people couldn’t overcome it and it consumed them,” Manny says.
In an effort to overcome his past, Clarence decided to forget the hardships and only remember the friendships he made at school.
After listening to a baseball game on the radio, his classmates dubbed him ‘Chicago’ because he was the only kid cheering for the Cubs. Manny says if anyone called him ‘Chicago’ you knew they shared a common, if not harrowing, past.
“All of those guys he grew up with were his best friends even to this day,” Manny says.
WORKING RANCHES AND FOR HIS PEOPLE
He left school in Grade 9 and by 15 he was on his own. Clarence started working on dairy ranches in Douglas Lake and began a life as a real working cowboy; including riding in rodeos.
His father once told him one of his most trying times was when he broke his arm in a rodeo. Clarence couldn’t work for several months, leaving him near destitute.
“He said ‘son I even had to sell my saddle’,” Manny says, adding for a horseman that was probably the worst thing that could have happened.
While the transition from rodeo rider to community leader might seem unlikely, Manny says his father was mentored his whole life for the role. Clarence’s father Joe Jules sat on the Kamloops Indian Band council for 32 years.
He originally took minutes at band meetings and by 1962 Clarence decided to run for council, and was asked to run for chief. Manny says his dad served as chief for nearly ten years, three times returning by acclamation.
Clarence was always a strong proponent of business and economic development, which led him to create Mount Paul Industrial Park.
“His mantra was move at the speed of business, nobody back then was talking about it,” Manny says. “He always believed that we should have the access to resources to be able to take care of ourselves.”
Clarence was a founding member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, a group that Manny says ushered in modern First Nations politics in the province.
LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST
“When he got prostate cancer when he was 75 I said ‘dad what do you want to do?’”
Clarence gave Manny a list. He wanted to see rodeos and bull riders. He wanted to see some country.
So father and son drove down to Galveston, Texas.
Clarence told Manny one of the most memorable trips they took together was a trip to the Custer Battlefields in Montana. Manny says his father could feel energy from spirits, making it a very powerful experience.
“All of these things were really important to him because he wanted to live life to the fullest,” Manny says. “I could just go on for hours and hours about him.”
Clarence Jules wearing a pin on his hat of 'Tony the Wonder Horse' the horse of his favorite cowboy Tom Mix.
Image Credit: Manny Jules
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— This story was updated 11:08 a.m. Sept. 24, 2015 at 11:08 a.m. with minor corrections.