Next Monday is Remembrance Day, so I felt it was fitting that we should remember one of Whistler’s veterans.
Walter Zebrowski was born in Poland and served as an information officer in World War II.
Despite being wounded on the first day of the Second World War, Zebrowski was not prevented from many wartime adventures, including escaping from Nazi soldiers twice, surviving a U-boat attack in the North Atlantic, crossing Siberia in a boxcar in the middle of winter, training in the Middle East and then taking part in the pivotal battle of Monte Cassino as the Allies advanced through Italy to Germany.
During his army service Zebrowski was issued with a pair of skis which he later donated to the Whistler Museum. These skis had been used by Zebrowski during the war in Russia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Italy. All the details of these wartime adventures are too vast to be covered in this short article, so for those who are intrigued to read more, Walter’s memoir “In Search of Freedom” is available in the Whistler Public Library and for sale in the museum’s gift shop.
After the War ended Zebrowski did not want to return to communist Poland, so in 1948 he moved to Canada and set up a chicken farm in the Lower Mainland. He used his war-issued skis to tour Garibaldi Park and it was on a trip to Diamond Head in Squamish that he spotted Whistler Mountain in the distance. Obtaining a map from the forestry office he discovered a section of land not claimed by the Crown or private interests, which he quickly put a claim on. This was in 1962.
Over the next three decades Zebrowski was one of the most active developers in the Whistler Valley. He started out alone in the woods, clearing the land and building roads with his bulldozer. By the time he was done he had developed most of today’s Nordic Estates neighbourhood, played a central role in the establishment of the Whistler Water Works, the Whistler Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and even brought television to the valley for the first time.
If you’re outside, look up to the top of Sproatt Mountain where you can see his tv-signal repeater station. He also built Eva Lake Park in Nordic, which was named after his daughter.
He became a very wealthy man, but he was very generous with his wealth, giving to many local causes including the Whistler Museum. He passed away in 1996, and the bridge at Cheakamus Crossing is named in his honour.
Sarah Drewery is executive director of the Whistler Museum.