I pulled up to the Log Homes Canada works yard, a large, expansive area on the Tzeachten Reserve, and felt right at home. My father’s entire working life in Canada had been with the forest industry so the sight of logs, the sound of a chain saw in the distance and the smell of freshly debarked lumber was familiar to me. I was warmly greeted by Keith Ollenberger and we went inside the lunch room where a beautiful cat sat, purring contentedly. For a moment, I didn’t know whether I should start the interview or stop temporarily to pet and greet my new-found, fury friend. I decided to do both and we continued.
Keith is a man of depth, of profound knowledge and he has a pure heart of gold. What a treat it was to take some time away from my daily, hectic schedule and just visit.
Keith grew up on a strawberry farm in Langley. He was a rather sickly child, having almost died as a baby. “I was very anaemic and weak. My father was told that I should drink dry, grape wine with no sugar and from the time that I was three until I was 10, I had one glass a day and my iron content did go up. Our house burnt down when I was 10 and we lost the wine cellar and that was the end of that,” he explained, with a smile.
His parents eventually sold their farm and moved to Golden, but Keith remained in Aldergrove in order to finish his schooling. “When I 16, I rode the train to Valemount to work for Dawson Construction. Dad was working there and they needed some young students for the summer; setting chokers and clearing land for the new highway. I was making $2.70 an hour and I thought that I had the world by the tail,” he said, with fond recollection. His final pay cheque was for $370 and when he returned to Aldergrove after the summer, he bought a 1955, Mercury, 2-door hard top. “I put mags on the car and painted it white and mauve so that when I went back to school I could be somebody,” he laughed.
He lived with his sister while finishing up high school and paid for his room and board. “I went to school and worked seven days a week on a chicken farm to pay my way and graduated from Aldergrove Senior High. After graduation, I continued working on the chicken farm for the next two years and then decided to buy my own truck to haul chickens to the slaughter house,” he said. After two years of hauling chickens, Keith moved on and began working for Blackwood Industries in Abbotsford where for the next seven years he drove a tractor trailer, picking up lumber and hardware supplies.
“I then got the bug to go north and moved to 100 Mile House. I have always loved the outdoors and it was where I wanted to be.” Nestled on the Fraser Plateau between the heights of the Coastal and Rocky mountain ranges, the community was a perfect fit for a man who thrived in an area known for its rustic charm, its beautiful lakes and plentiful outdoor activities. For an avid hunter and fisher, like Keith, it was heaven on earth.
This is the area where he also built his first log house. “I built it with logs from my own property. I went to get insurance for it and found out just how expensive it was because there was no fire protection. My house was actually in Lone Butte so I started the Volunteer Fire Department there; we built it out of logs and I became the Volunteer Fire Chief for the next 12 years,” he said. It was also here that Keith resolved to build log homes.
“I went on a cruise and met my wife, Shelley. I moved back to the coast, where Shelley lived, we got married and we’ve been building log houses ever since,” he said proudly. Log Homes Canada was born in 1998, an adventure that he shared with his son Colin and their wives, Andrea and Shelley. “We all started the company as equal partners and today we have about 12 employees. Since we started, we’ve sold homes to customers in Germany, Japan, Greece, almost every state in the US, Canada and Israel. We sold the very first log home in Israel and we also built a restaurant there,” he said.
From the initial concept and log home floor plan design services to fast shipping and log home kit setup almost anywhere in the world, their product is one of quality and they offer great support and extra service. This has earned them the prestigious BC Export Award and they’ve also received numerous nominations for other awards.
Keith loves the ability to work outdoors. “I get the chance to build someone’s dream home and all the homes are different. There’s great variety in what we do and we get paid to travel because two of us go over to set up the homes,” he enthused.
While Keith loves building log homes, he has other passions that run equally as deep. “I’m an absolute NASCAR junkie. Three years ago, for my 60th birthday, Shelley surprised me with a trip to the Las Vegas Speedway. I got to drive a race car for 18 laps. It was an absolute thrill.” ‘Daddy’, as he is known around work, used to hang out at the Langley Speedway in his younger years and fell in love with stock car racing, a love that continues today.
Another of Keith’s passions and something that he considers a duty is donating blood. “My sister-in-law urged me to give blood so I did and in doing so I found out that I have rare blood. I’m AB Rh negative so Canadian Blood Services calls me every 56 days, urging me to donate blood. I’m also passionate about BC Children’s Hospital. It’s all about raising money for the kids and last year, through our various fundraisers, we gave them a cheque for $65,000,” he said, obviously pleased at the endeavour.
Keith is living life to the fullest, enjoying each and every day as it comes and trying hard to stay healthy. He enjoys travelling, hunting, fishing and playing golf whenever he can and above all, helping others as much as he can.