British Columbia

Thor Froslev, founder of B.C.'s eagle count and Squamish art gallery, dead at 89

Thor Froslev, a well-known community member and innovator in Squamish, B.C., has died at the age of 89.

'His presence and unwavering commitment to art, culture and community will genuinely be missed,' district says

An old man with a white beard poses in front of an eagle symbol.
Thor Froslev, the founder of the Brackendale eagle count, described by friends as a force in the community and an innovator, has died at the age of 89. (Submitted by Dorte Froslev)

Thor Froslev, a well-known community member and innovator in Squamish, B.C., has died at the age of 89.

"Thor was one in a million," the District of Squamish said in a statement. 

"His presence and unwavering commitment to art, culture and community will genuinely be missed."

Patricia Heintzman, who met Froslev about 30 years ago as a reporter at the local newspaper, the Squamish Chief, described him as "a force" in the community.

"He had his idea about what he wanted to see and what he wanted to happen," she told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

Froslev came to Canada by way of Denmark in the mid-1950s. He worked and lived in communities across the province but spent most of his time in Vancouver — holding jobs as an elevator operator, landscaper, bricklayer's helper, shoe factory and sawmill worker.

He moved to Squamish in the 60s and, after talking to local artists, bought some land and built a gallery in the Brackendale neighbourhood — which opened in 1973 — showcasing their work.

Heintzman said he collected wood and beams and doors from old supermarkets to build the space.

"It's all wood, and some of the posts are carved [into] forest nymphs or fish or eagles," Heintzman said. 

If a theatre group in town needed a space, Heintzman said, he'd build a stage. And when they grew out of that space, he'd build another. 

A mural painted on a rectangular building. It features multiple soft pastel colours, and a bearded man with glasses and a hat on the right side.
Thor Froslev was honoured by the community with a mural earlier this year. (Kevin Ledo)

According to the District of Squamish, Froslev served as a member of the local council in 1976 and 1977. 

In 1986, he established a local eagle count and festival.  The art gallery says a world-record 3,769 bald eagles were counted in 1994.

The B.C. government established Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park in 1999.

Froslev received an award from the B.C. Achievement Foundation in 2016 for his work in creating the gallery and the eagle count.

In July 2022, a mural in his honour was painted by Montreal-based muralist Kevin Ledo in Squamish, where it is expected to remain for at least 10 years.

With files from Winston Szeto and On The Coast

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