When next you walk on Kitimat’s sidewalks, you will probably be walking on a piece of history, on a piece of sidewalk that was laid by a then very young José Pacheco, recently retired head of District of Kitimat public works.
José came to Kitimat in 1976 as a 17-year-old with his mother and his brother from the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal to join their father, who had come over from the islands to work for Alcan five years before.
“It was very difficult for me as a teenager, arriving here and not being able to speak a word of English,” said José. “That was the hardest part about moving here.”
José had to spend a year in school learning to understand English well enough for him to communicate, and most importantly to him, to go out and look for work.
He overcame the language barrier and eventually landed his first job on a date he still clearly remembers – October 6, 1978. He started working for the District as a swapper behind a garbage truck.
José would continue working for the District, for 38 years, until his retirement earlier this month at 57.
“I moved off the garbage trucks into the general labour pool and was set to work with the team that laid concrete around town,” said José.
For the next three years he and his team laid hundreds of metres of sidewalk as the town steadily grew, following a promotion to crew leader.
When the district started employing contractors to lay concrete around town, José moved to focusing on maintenance around Kitimat. In 2004 he was promoted to foreman, and he worked on a number of big projects, including the raising of the golf course road.
While working his way up the ladder at the District, José got married in 1981 and had two children, Jason and Melissa, who still live in Kitimat.
After a divorce, José met his current partner Dorit Linder, and the couple have been together for 10 years. José shook his head when asked about getting married again, saying: “No, no wedding plans yet!”
José admits he is quite fond of learning about old history, especially Portuguese history, and he and Dorit have travelled the world together, to the United Kingdom and Europe, particularly Portugal.
He said they have plans to visit South America and Thailand as well, especially Brazil, a country which José is fascinated with.
José said he has no plans to move out of Kitimat, despite having seen so much of the world.
“My father came to Canada to be able to provide a better life for his family,” said José. “He achieved that for us, in Kitimat, which has always provided our family with a good life. It is a beautiful place to raise kids.”
He said the town offers residents a good standard of living and bountiful opportunities for recreation, especially fishing and golf. He admits that for him golf is more about walking than actually playing the game though.
“You never get bored in Kitimat – there are lots of activities to choose from and the outdoor life is incredible here,” said José.
He said despite all the change that he has seen happening, through the good times and the bad, Kitimat has always kept its spirit.
“We have to work hard to bring more businesses and companies to Kitimat, not just wait for LNG,” said José.
He said retiring relatively early was important to him so that it would create an opportunity for someone younger to move up the ladder.
“I know I retired early, but I intend on enjoying life in Kitimat while I am still young,” said José.
“There is more than enough for me to do here.”