‘Like a big brother’: Hope’s chainsaw carving legend Pete Ryan remembered for talent, joyful nature

Locals laid flowers down at the foot of the big bear carving at Memorial Park, paying tribute to the late chainsaw carving legend Pete Ryan (Photo/Adam Louis)Locals laid flowers down at the foot of the big bear carving at Memorial Park, paying tribute to the late chainsaw carving legend Pete Ryan (Photo/Adam Louis)
Pete Ryan, carving a bear (Black Press)Pete Ryan, carving a bear (Black Press)
Pete Ryan, known all over the world for his chainsaw carvings, died on Friday, Jan. 8. He was 70 years old. (Contributed Photo/Dignity Memorial)Pete Ryan, known all over the world for his chainsaw carvings, died on Friday, Jan. 8. He was 70 years old. (Contributed Photo/Dignity Memorial)
Pete Ryan carving in front of Hope District Hall, District of Hope. (Barry Stewart/Hope Standard)Pete Ryan carving in front of Hope District Hall, District of Hope. (Barry Stewart/Hope Standard)
Anne Kosichek was busy sanding and polishing two benches at the front of Hope Memorial Park, in preparation for the 2019 Chainsaw Carving Competition. Kosichek designed the benches, and local chainsaw carver Pete Ryan created them. They were donated two years ago to the District. (Jessica Peters/ Black Press)Anne Kosichek was busy sanding and polishing two benches at the front of Hope Memorial Park, in preparation for the 2019 Chainsaw Carving Competition. Kosichek designed the benches, and local chainsaw carver Pete Ryan created them. They were donated two years ago to the District. (Jessica Peters/ Black Press)
Pete Ryan (left) poses with long-time friend Dennis Bucher. (Photo/Dennis Bucher)Pete Ryan (left) poses with long-time friend Dennis Bucher. (Photo/Dennis Bucher)
Carver Kings stars Pete Ryan (left) and Ryan Cook pose together. Cook wrote a tribute to the late Ryan on his Facebook page shortly after Ryan’s death on Jan. 8. (Photo/Ryan Cook)Carver Kings stars Pete Ryan (left) and Ryan Cook pose together. Cook wrote a tribute to the late Ryan on his Facebook page shortly after Ryan’s death on Jan. 8. (Photo/Ryan Cook)
The world got to know the work of famed Hope chainsaw carver Pete Ryan (centre) by way of Carver Kings, a series that aired on HGTV. (Photo/Ryan Cook)The world got to know the work of famed Hope chainsaw carver Pete Ryan (centre) by way of Carver Kings, a series that aired on HGTV. (Photo/Ryan Cook)
Locals laid flowers down at the foot of the big bear carving at Memorial Park, paying tribute to the late chainsaw carving legend Pete Ryan (Photo/Adam Louis)Locals laid flowers down at the foot of the big bear carving at Memorial Park, paying tribute to the late chainsaw carving legend Pete Ryan (Photo/Adam Louis)
Pete Ryan poses with an eagle carving, which was featured on Saw Dogs. (Hope Standard File)Pete Ryan poses with an eagle carving, which was featured on Saw Dogs. (Hope Standard File)
Fred Fandrich submitted this photo of his Pete Ryan-carved sign outside of Valley Helicopters. Fandrich said the main log came from a tree that blew over in a windstorm. The log succumbed to rot in 2012. (Photo/Fred Fandrich)Fred Fandrich submitted this photo of his Pete Ryan-carved sign outside of Valley Helicopters. Fandrich said the main log came from a tree that blew over in a windstorm. The log succumbed to rot in 2012. (Photo/Fred Fandrich)

“Once you met him, you’d never forget him.”

That’s how Pete Ryan’s long-time friend Dennis Bucher said of the world-famous chainsaw carver, who passed away on Jan. 8. As Hope and the art community around the world mourn the loss of an icon, Ryan leaves behind an immortal legacy of art, song and love for his community.

District councillor and Chainsaw Carving Competition organizer Victor Smith met Pete Ryan while competing in logger sports. At the time, Ryan was living in Vancouver; it was at the PNE back in the mid 80s where Ryan carved a life-sized elephant.

Smith said Ryan was a mentor to younger carvers such as fellow ‘Saw Dogs’ and ‘Carver Kings’ star Ryan Cook.

RELATED: Carving competition attracts thousands

“They would all go to Pete Ryan’s on the last night to party together, sit around and have a fire,” Smith said. “He made it like a brotherhood for everybody. He accepted all carvers.”

Cook penned his own heartfelt tribute to Ryan on his Facebook page.

“He taught me how to carve an eagle, he taught me how to carve cats,” Cook said. “He taught me how to carve with the heart. He was an inspiration to me and so many other carvers. My heart goes out to Lynn and the kids. I love you, big guy! Those clouds in heaven better watch out ‘cause they are gonna be looking amazing in the sky from now on.”

Ryan’s natural artistic talent grew from an early age.

“He was already an artist from the word ‘go’; some people are natural artists,” Bucher said. He recalled stories from Ryan’s late parents, telling him about Pete drawing on the walls and winning art contests as a child.

Smith said Ryan had an ability to see the carving in the wood while it was still a raw log.

“He says ‘it’s in there; I’ve just got to knock off the wood so I can show you,” Smith said.

Sandie Maximuk recalled when Ryan carved a statue in tribute to her uncle and Hope Minor Hockey staple Murray Sullivan, which now stands tall in front of the Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre in Hope.

“He asked us for my uncle’s hockey gear so he could make sure that the carving was as close as he could get it, then he brought it over to my grandparents’ house and did an unveiling for the family,” she said. “We are forever grateful for not only the carving but for the friendship we had.”

Ryan’s easy-going attitude meant he didn’t force his talents into a time-sensitive box.

“He didn’t rush anything,” Bucher said. “If you wanted to order something from him, it’ll be ready when it’s ready. He didn’t have just one carving on the go; he’d have one over here he just started and one over there he’s trying to finish.”

In addition to being a visual artist, Ryan was a talented musician, working to the tune of blues bands and jamming with local musicians on the guitar, blues harp, banjo or harmonica.

RELATED: Pete Ryan carving restored to glory

“He liked the blues,” Bucher recalled. “When I went over to visit him, he would drag me off to his music room and we would sit down and he’d show me his new chords and what he’s learned.

“If you walked by the shop when he was working, you’d hear blues in the background. He had the stereo playing and he’d whistle along or pull out his [blues] harp and play along with it for a while.”

True to his boisterous, jolly nature, Ryan loved a good joke. Angela Lott recalls him acquiring a taxidermy raccoon from her mother to use it for study. It turned out to be less for art study purposes but instead became a fixture in Ryan’s shop, in a fearsome pose and dressed in a small karate gi.

For seven years, Bucher and Ryan organized the Festival in the Woods, a celebration of all things wood centered around Canada Day, fireworks and a car show. The duo also created a museum in the Hope Theatre dedicated to chainsaw carving back when Bucher managed the theatre.

“Pete was always coming out to the theatre and hanging out there when he wasn’t carving on Main Street,” Bucher recalled.

Bucher’s favourite memory of their friendship was Ryan’s 50th birthday. Bucher had the task of keeping Ryan occupied all day out of town while 150 of his closest friends gathered for a surprise party.

“That weekend before his party, I’d sold him a couple of tickets, and he bought them off me for $20 a ticket, thinking he was going to the Hope Search and Rescue’s final summer party,” Bucher said. “I had the Search and Rescue guys run the door and pretend to collect tickets. He turned around to look in the hall and we had a wheelchair waiting for him because he was turning 50. I threw him in the chair and his son started wheeling him around. It was a really good surprise party, for him.”

Bucher recalled one night toward the end of 2020 when he and Ryan sat around his table and the conversation turned to aging and health.

RELATED: Hope carver stars in TV series

“He said to me ‘I believe in reincarnation.’ That’s just his way of believing, right? I kind of think that,too,” Bucher said. “I mean, you don’t just drop dead, get buried and that’s the end of your spirit. He wasn’t too worried about passing away. That’s just the way Pete was. He didn’t worry about nothin’ in life.”

Bucher said Ryan might have chosen to come back as an eagle, if given a choice.

“I said [to his wife], ‘Lynn, if an eagle starts hanging around the house, you know,” he added.

With his love for learning, his drive to excel in his art and thirst to follow whatever was on his heart, Pete Ryan’s life was as full as it was impactful.

“He lived a good life. He did what he wanted; he lived the live he wanted to live,” Bucher said. “He was like a big brother to me.”

Smith said an upcoming chainsaw carving competition would pay tribute to Ryan with a few of his carvings for sale, the proceeds of which would go to his family in Ryan’s memory. Bucher said there are plans in motion to possibly hire a carver to create a Pete Ryan statue, a fitting tribute to the artist in his favourite medium.

While plans for a memorial in his honour begin to crystallize, one notion remains clear –Pete Ryan’s joyful spirit and unbridled passion for his art will live on.


@adamEditor18
adam.louis@hopestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Art

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Loop Energy’s first engineer, Vance Chou (right), working with a National Research Council colleague to test one of the first fuel-cell prototypes at the Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation in 2002. (Loop Energy photos)
Loop Energy: Chilliwack fuel-cell startup hits bumps on road to success

This is part two of a 3-part series on the rise of Loop Energy, now being traded publicly on the TSX

Riverside Calvary Church in Walnut Grove. (Langley Advance Times file)
B.C. is ‘stereotyping’ churches as riskier for COVID than other spaces, lawyer argues

Judge said that freedom of expression, religion are not at issue in the case

Dawn Haig, manager of Save-On-Foods Cottonwood location, said they are “one hundred per cent” ready to open on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Fourth Chilliwack Save-On-Foods 100% ready to open Thursday, says store manager

More than 100 jobs created at new 38,000-square foot grocery store location at Cottonwood Centre

(Black Press file photo)
Homicide team to look into death of 11-year-old Harrison Mills boy

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Rendering of proposed homeless shelter and supportive housing facility on Rowat Avenue and Trethewey Avenue in Chilliwack. (BC Housing)
Supportive housing and shelter proposed to replace the Portal in Chilliwack

Province looking to fast-track hybrid proposal for 50 supportive homes and 40 shelter spaces

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Abbotsford Regional Hospital (Black Press file photo)
Nurse assaulted at Abbotsford hospital in same ward as 2019 dumbbell attack

BC Nurses’ Union confirms assault on Feb. 21; more details to come

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell gets acquainted with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird’s 10-month-old daughter Sophia, husband Steve and four-year-old Amy at the B.C. legislature before a ceremony to endorse the Tsawwassen Treaty, Oct. 15, 2007. (Sharon Tiffin/Black Press)
Indigenous consent comes first and last for B.C. industrial projects

Environment minister can still approve permits without consent

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

After a routine rescue of an injured hiker, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue noted there have been four injury rescues on well-groomed trails in recent months. (Special to The News)
Injured hiker rescued from Golden Ears park

Be prepared in the backcountry, warns Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue

B.C.’s court of appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Kootenay man appeals 7-year conviction for New Year’s Eve kidnapping, beating

Brandon Coons, 27, was convicted on five charges, including assault with a weapon

An investigation is underway after two VPD officers were recorded posing for pictures near a dead body at Third Beach on Feb. 24. (Screen grab/Zachary Ratcliff)
Vancouver officers placed on desk duty after filmed posing next to dead body

Pair put in ‘non-deployable, admin positions’ as the investigation into their conduct continues

Vancouver Giants president, governor and majority owner Ron Toigo welcomed the provincial announcement made on Monday, Mar. 1, 2021 that the province could soon allow WHL teams to resume competitive play. (Vancouver Giants/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Return to play news welcomed by Vancouver Giants team

rOwner, coach and players pleased by report WHL could soon resume play in B.C.

Most Read