Canada's Giant Lumbermanby KATHERINE DEDYNA
Former lumberman, family man, philanthropist, pilot, community adviser and connoisseur of pipes - Rajindi Singh Paldi Mayo - was a fixture in the Cowichan Valley (British Columbia, Canada) known for handing out smiles wherever he went.
Born into a prominent family, he assumed the reins of the Mayo Lumber Company early, due to the untimely death of his father Mayo Singh, who founded the village of Paldi, near Duncan (B.C.). Named after Mayo's home village in India, it was quickly peopled with immigrants from that country.
"He was only [about] twenty years old when his father died, and he had to take over the whole thing", recalls Joan Mayo, widow of the Sikh-Canadian pioneer who died at home on September 7, 2008.
"I think he coped very well. He built a new mill in Nanaimo, a huge one, but with the failing lumber industry, that is no more".
The decline was hard on him, but in later years, he concentrated on spending time with his eight nearby grandchildren and becoming a benevolent adviser to the Sikh-Canadian community, says long-time friend Bill Keserich.
Tolerant, modest but mischievous, he won widespread respect: "I have not heard one derogatory thing about Rajindi", says Keserich, who met him in 1955 when he came into the clothing store where Keserich worked to purchase a funeral suit for his father.
Rajindi fell in love with Joan, whom he called "Cam" because of her Scottish name, early. She was sixteen and he fifteen when they met by chance - and it sealed sixty happy years together.
"He used to sneak the keys out of his mother's car and come to see me. I didn't realize he didn't have a licence", she recalls.
A shy, generous man, Rajindi Singh was anything but a disciplinarian to their four sons and one daughter. "He was very kind and loving and never strict, never, ever", she says. His family's happiness was the joy of his life.
"Community came first, before business did", says family friend Nirmal Singh Parmar.
Rajindi wanted to enjoy life and not crawl over others to get his way.
He served on the first board of directors at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, B.C.) and continued the Mayo family tradition of donations to hospitals and universities, but did not seek recognition.
Duncan, Ladysmith and Victoria hospitals were all beneficiaries.
He also donated the flagpole atop Beacon Hill Park in memory of his own father, son Dale notes.
Nirmal Singh, treasurer of the Gurdwara in Paldi, knew Mayo since he came to Canada from Punjab in 1961 at age seven, and lived in the community named after Rajindi's father's village in the Punjab.
Rajindi took helping immigrants seriously.
He travelled to Ottawa to meet political leaders Louis St. Laurent and John Diefenbaker (both were Prime Ministers of Canada at different stages) and advocated for immigration quotas to be raised, Dale says. He sponsored arriving families, giving them homes and jobs and getting them on their way as Canadians.
"The door was always open. He was just a giver - he gave to everyone," Dale says. "He treated everyone as an equal, no matter who they were".
Nirmal Singh's mother died when his brother, Hardeep was only twelve, and the boy basically grew up in the Rajindi household while Nirmal was off at university.
"He took him in as his other son and considered him as his other son", says Nirmal, grateful to this day.
Growing up, Nirmal remembers the Mayo house being a home to all who came by. He and the other kids enjoyed being hired by Rajindi for 25 cents an hour to rake the pastures for Mayo's thoroughbred horses.
"All the kids from the village were able to walk up the hill and use his swimming pool whenever they wanted to. It was just great".
Even now, you can take people out of Paldi but not the good feelings about Paldi out of them. "And that was thanks to him", Nirmal says. "If you ask anyone about Rajindi, the first thing you'll see is a smile come to their face".
He never forgot a name - "he always made you feel special".
In his younger years, Rajindi loved to pilot his Twin Beechcraft plane, and Joan was proud of his prowess. As a lumber trader, he flew all over Canada and the U.S. for meetings. He lived a wealthy life but he never flaunted it, Nirmal Singh says.
He enjoyed saying to an ordinary person "'Hey, come on, I'll take you for a ride', and he'd [fly] you to Vancouver or San Francisco".
Always particular about his attire, Rajindi was compared to ultra-natty hockey commentator Don Cherry or former Nanaimo mayor Frank Ney. "No matter how hot it was, he'd still wear his three-piece suit", Joan says.
Extended family members will be redeveloping Paldi village, something Rajindi was happy to contemplate. After two months in the Royal Jubilee Hospital for heart problems, he came home at the end of May.
"He started to pick up, and then he had a couple of falls and went the other way", Joan says. He made all his organs available for transplant, but only his corneas proved suitable. Joan takes comfort that someone else will see through Rajindi's eyes.
"He was one of a kind", Dale says. "He was just a good guy, loved by all".
Rajindi Singh Paldi Mayo was born Dececember 9, 1933, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Victoria and died at his Paldi home on September 7, 2008.
September 21, 2008
Conversation about this article
1: Satwinder Bains (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), September 23, 2008, 8:09 AM.
Amazing story of one of our pioneers in BC. Mr. Mayo is to be commended for all the help he gave to our countrymen when they arrived on these lovely shores. We as immigrants to this country have been able to walk the streets proudly because of the hard work and dedication of our pioneers.
2: Devi Rai (Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada), September 23, 2010, 3:18 PM.
I am so impressed by the stories I have been reading about our pioneers. They have done so much for us; nowadays nobody appreciates the life that we have.
3: Ranjit Singh (Surrey, Brtish Columbia, Canada), January 26, 2011, 12:50 PM.
I was reading the story about Paldi. I heard about Mayo Singh and Rajindi Singh. I saw all the pictures of our pioneers. May God bless you. You may be gone in phyisical form, but you are always alive in our hearts. Thank you.
4: Edwin Green (Trenton, Nova Scotia, Canada), May 28, 2015, 5:56 PM.
I worked for the Darshan Stables from 1964 to 1966. The Mayo brothers were fine people. I was stable foreman. Speed Karmode was the trainer in Vancouver and Bay Meadows, California.