David Driscoll was knee deep in a trench when he first met Bill McCracken.
Actually, he first met McCracken’s son, Scotty. He had come across Dowding Road to pitch in with the effort to prepare Driscoll’s house for a connection to the sewer trunk line that had just been installed along Ioco Road, and invited the new neighbour over to his parents’ house for coffee.
Driscoll accepted, and so began a lifelong friendship that culminated last Tuesday when Port Moody council agreed to his proposal to rename Miner Lane to McCracken Lane.
It would be a fitting honour for “one of the finest community building families in our civic history,” wrote Driscoll — mayor of Port Moody from 1983 to ’93 — in a letter he sent to council last March.
Driscoll said his first exposure to McCracken’s love for creating community was the line of pumpkins along the edge of his garden, where Dowding Road meets Ioco Road. Each was affixed with a paper tag with a name on it.
The pumpkins were destined for the kids in the neighbourhood, McCracken told his neighbour. But they also had a more clever purpose: The garden was the flattest expanse in the Pleasantside community that slopes down toward Burrard Inlet, so kids often used it for playing games, until the pumpkins popped up and they had to take care to no longer trample them.
The McCracken garden became legendary throughout Port Moody as Bill and his wife June packed the produce they didn’t need into bags they then delivered them to the doorknobs of families around the city who didn’t have as much.
“He’d look after everyone,” Driscoll said, adding McCracken’s caring ways may have been rooted in his Depression-era upbringing on a Manitoba farm where his parents loaded their surplus crop into a rail car for distribution to needy families in Winnipeg.
Driscoll said McCracken’s community-building also employed hammer, nails and even a saw.
He was one of the original builders of Old Orchard Hall and, when pews acquired by Ioco United Church from another church proved too long for its little sanctuary, he cut them down to fit.
“Whatever needed doing, he was there,” Driscoll said, adding McCracken also served as a volunteer firefighter as well as a Cub and Scouts leader.
McCracken rarely worked alone. He was always careful to involve others, like his co-workers at the nearby Imperial Oil refinery, who he got to agree to tithe part of their paycheques to help pay for a soccer field in the neighbourhood or the young people he enlisted to help clear the waterfront property that became Old Orchard Park.
“He found a way of building inclusive stuff,” Driscoll said. “He always found a way to make these things into community events."
But mostly, he added, he remembers McCracken’s giggle that gladdened the hearts of everyone who heard it.
“Most everything made him giggle,” Driscoll said of his friend, who died last year at the age of 96. “He had one of the world’s most wonderful dispositions.”