Calgary

'Rolf the Woodcarver,' beloved figure in Radium, B.C., dead at 66

Rolf Heer, the woodcarver who built and resided in Radium's iconic Home of a Thousand Faces until it was destroyed by fire, died Tuesday at age 66. 

Community plans to build a public park where his home once stood, in his memory

Rolf Heer, a beloved woodcarver from Radium, B.C., has died. (Rolf Heer/Facebook, Scott Crowson/CBC)

Rolf Heer, the woodcarver who built and resided in Radium's iconic Home of a Thousand Faces until it was destroyed by fire, died Tuesday at age 66. 

But while Heer, and his home, may be gone, his legacy will live on in a public park and a local celebration. 

"He was just one of those defining figures of the community. You know, certainly a person that had his own level of controversy. Some people loved him. Some people found him challenging," said Radium Coun. Mike Gray. "But he was just, such a truly eccentric character like the type you see and read about in stories ... that you think just doesn't exist in the real world. And he was exactly that type of person in that very genuine way."

Heer was already suffering from terminal cancer when his home was destroyed in a November 2018 fire.

The house, located at the busy intersection of Highways 93 and 95, was a landmark in the B.C. mountain village and represented Heer's work for more than 40 years.

The towering wooden structure jutted out of the earth like a marooned ship, and was covered with faces, each one hand carved by Heer. 

Gray said anyone who stopped by the house to chat with Heer and admire his woodcarvings was in for a memorable experience, and that both Heer and his home helped define the character of Radium.

Heer had planned to donate the building to the village after his death. Instead, he donated his land and asked the village to carry out his vision of creating a public gathering space.

The community plans to create a GoFundMe to realize that dream.

Gray said the town hopes to celebrate a new holiday in Heer's memory starting next April (Heer's birthday month) —Woodcarver Days.

Gray said fortunately, close friends were able to spend time with Heer during his last days. 

"I know he was very grateful for that and there was a smile on his face that hadn't been seen in a long time," Gray said.

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