This sourdough lives the life he wanted

Dave Kalles could legitimately be referred to as an old-timer: he has lived in Watson Lake for nearly 40 years and he is 71 years old. After that the term simply doesn't apply.


Dave Kalles could legitimately be referred to as an old-timer: he has lived in Watson Lake for nearly 40 years and he is 71 years old. After that the term simply doesn’t apply.

Kallas started running six years ago and last year took a gold, a silver and two bronze medals at the Canada Seniors Games in New Brunswick.

This year he won three silver medals at the Kamloops at the Masters Nationals. There are only 5,000 athletes in his age group in Canada to be ranked: he is second.

In curling, his team has made it to three of the last five Masters Nationals. They had to win in the Yukon to be able to compete.

He coaches curling in the winter and plays and coaches baseball in the summer.

As if maintaining top athletic fitness is not enough, Kalles continues to work full time, putting in the overtime that owning one’s business demands. The hardware store that he opened in 1984 and sold to Beaver Lumber in 1997 became his family’s business again in 2007.

He also owns and operates a shop that manufactures roof trusses, core boxes, ore pallets and claim stakes, a good and shining example of value-added manufacture in Yukon he says with pride. The shop also installs windshields and supplies the only plate glass in town.

The Kalles story begins in Washington State where both he and his wife Alice were born and raised. They met while attending university in Bellingham; Alice took a degree in education and Dave got a bachelor of arts degree.

They married after graduation and moved to Vancouver, BC, where Dave did five years of post graduate studies in theology.

He was offered a job immediately after graduation by the Bishop of Yukon. He and Alice first took the precaution of checking in their atlas to see where it was before gladly accepting the posting.

They were sent to Teslin, spending five years there before being moved to Haines Junction.

“Teslin was great,” Kalles says. “The place was beautiful, and we really liked the community and our work there.”

The posting at Haines Junction lasted just under a year, the population being too small to support a full-time minister. The Kalles family (five children by this time) were sent to St. John’s Anglican Church in Watson Lake.

Here, Kalles had an epiphany of sorts.

“I asked the Bishop to replace me,” he says “I remained in charge of the church for the next 20 years, but I no longer wanted to be its minister.”

Was this a crisis of faith?

“No, not at all,” Kalles says “It was more a realization that there were people around in government jobs that didn’t have to do anything; it seemed that eventually many of them ended up not doing anything. I felt frightened by the notion I may become one of them. I went to the Canada Tungsten mine to work as a carpenter.”

Alice stayed in Watson Lake with the children and a full-time job as a teacher.

After a year and a half at the mine, Kalles worked as a carpenter in Watson Lake, eventually becoming a contractor. He was primarily a cabinetmaker in those years.

“I installed cabinets in communities all over the Yukon,” he says. “Those were the days when the contractor didn’t just install factory-made cabinets; he built them.”

During these years, the couple were active in their community with both of them, at different times, serving on the school council. Alice volunteered at the church thrift shop and was also a member of the library board. She worked at the CIBC bank.

Kalles became mayor of Watson Lake in 1998. What did he consider to be his best accomplishment in that position?

“I am proud of our waste-heat project,” Kalles says. “I went on trips to other places to learn about waste-heat alternatives. We hired an engineer to design a system for us; there was substantial heat loss from the diesel generators used to generate electricity for the town. We harnessed that heat and used it to heat the secondary school, the recreation complex, the two Yukon Electric staff houses and the swimming pool.

“The next step would have been to take the heat to the downtown area, but I didn’t get re-elected.”

These days Kalles maintains a work schedule that would be considered brutal by men half his age, as well as keeping up his running, curling and baseball activities.

Alice is the flip side of the marital coin; she has lived with diabetes for 55 years, a feat which takes tremendous care and attention on the part of the sufferer. Last year, she had a heart attack and during the recovery time, her kidneys failed. She is now on home dialysis, a procedure that needs to occur four times a day. She recently had to undergo a mastectomy for cancer.

Any one of these conditions would create enormous pressure on an individual and in a marriage. This couple maintains a cheerfulness and acceptance that is truly remarkable.

For instance, they have done a fair amount of international travel, with Hawaii, Belize, Germany, Holland, Cuba, Denmark, being a few of the places they have visited, yet they wish to do more.

Alice’s health issues are seen as something to be dealt with, not something that prevents travel. They report, with great enthusiasm, that they have found arrangements that can be made to have Alice’s dialysis medications sent ahead to their planned destination.

As for Dave Kalles, life is altogether good.

“I did the things I needed to do, and did the things I liked doing,” he says.

Tor Forsberg is a freelance writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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