We Remember


August 2, 1931 — April 30, 2024

On April 30, 2024, Steve Swetlishoff passed away.

Steve was a remarkable man, his character shining with intelligence, loyalty, wisdom, bravery, and a wry sense of humour that endeared him to all who knew him. Born into a Russian Doukhobor family on August 2, 1931, in the rugged Kootenays, British Columbia, Steve led an extraordinary life.

Growing up amidst the hardships of the Great Depression, young Steve confronted adversity with determination and resilience. Throughout his teenage years, he worked in Okanagan orchards and remote logging camps, facing challenges head-on.

To say he had nine lives is an understatement. Whether dodging falling mainline spar tree cables, huge cedar tree dead-falls or surviving a cardiac arrest in his 40s, Steve’s strength and spirit carried him into his 93rd year.

Transitioning to carpentry in his 20s, Steve mastered his craft, building countless houses and landmark structures across the province. From the many massive hydroelectric dams along the Columbia River to bespoke local projects including the first McDonald’s in Kelowna to the library and gymnasium at Glenmore Elementary School, his skill left an indelible mark.

“Capable” hardly describes Steve. He possessed the ability to build or repair anything, from homes for his children to intricate woodworking projects. He crafted custom fly-tying cases for each of his children from a walnut tree that he had grown from seed. Steve’s ingenuity extended to practical inventions, like his personal crane, “Igor,” which assisted him and Helen in building their beautiful retirement home overlooking Kalamalka and Wood Lakes in Oyama, BC.

Steve’s story was not just one of labour and danger; family was the heartbeat of his life. Marrying his beloved Helen in 1954 marked the beginning of a seven-decade love story. His handsome good looks, broad shoulders and steel blue eyes were not lost on Helen. Together, Steve & Helen built homes and filled them with love and family over the years, including five children. Their home on Kennedy Street in Kelowna was the place to be in the 70’s & 80’s and between their large family and all their friends, something fun was always happening. Countless family celebrations with 30+ dinner guests were nothing short of legendary. Downhill skiing and winter sports, fishing, boating and watersports, and relaxing days at the beach were regularly enjoyed activities.

With the arrival of grandchildren, Steve and Helen’s world grew even brighter; their five children produced nine grandchildren, who in turn brought nine great-grandchildren (and counting) into the world. From the moment they entered “Bubby and Papa’s” life, each grandchild was greeted with open arms and a heart full of love. Papa had a unique ability to connect with children, whether it was trips to the berry patch, projects in his workshop or “lost little black puppy” stories (that always had a happy ending).

Steve and Helen simply never stood still. They regularly visited dear family in the Kootenays, Kamloops, Nakusp and on Vancouver Island. They enjoyed annual planting and harvesting of their huge garden, and embarking on regular pilgrimages for huckleberries, mushrooms, and salmon. Travel and adventure were a hallmark of their long life together. Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, Barkerville, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California (Disneyland), Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Florida, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, and a spectacular river cruise from St. Petersburg to Moscow in Russia were all on the itinerary. A cross-Canada road trip with beloved eldest daughter, Shirley, and her husband, Kevin, was particularly special as it marked precious time together before Shirley’s tragic passing in 2007.

Steve was an avid outdoorsman who loved to fish both mountain lakes and the “salt-chuck” alike. Following the move to Oyama, rarely a day would pass without Steve trolling for kokanee in Wood Lake. In 2010, Steve received a Commendation from the Governor General of Canada, after rescuing two fishermen who had fallen through the ice.

On April 17, 2024, Steve and Helen celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with family and friends. Just two weeks later, on April 30, 2024 at Kelowna General Hospital, Steve passed peacefully, with Helen and three generations of loved ones by his side.

Steve is survived by his wife Helen; son Richard (Gail), daughter Gloria (Roy), daughter Angela (Shawn), son Daryl (Catherine), and son-in-law Kevin (Rita); grandchildren Naomi (Chris), Alyssa, Lucas, Brianne (Ted), Steven (Haley), Alex & Isabella, and Cole & Ella; great-grandchildren Ethan, Cohen & Ava, Beau & Neve, Quinn & Jake, and Baker & Navy; along with many nieces and nephews.

Though he has left this world, Steve’s spirit lives on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him. His legacy of strength, wisdom, and unconditional love will continue to inspire for generations to come – a testament to the enduring impact of a life well-lived.

Gratitude is owed to the caregivers and medical professionals who supported Steve in his final months, including Dr. Linda O’Neil, Dr. Robert Williams, Jill Kool and the Home Support Team from Interior Health, and the many health professionals at Kelowna General Hospital. Many thanks to Springfield Funeral Home.

A Celebration of Steve’s Life will be held in the summer. Rest in Peace, Steve.

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