The final judgment for Terry Shupe
Ask around at the Kamloops Law Courts about retiring provincial court Judge Terry Shupe and one observation persists.
He’s very funny.
And, if you ask his honour himself, he’ll tell you his wit has been as important a tool as any in his 36-year career on the bench.
“It’s essential. It’s absolutely vital,” he said. “Bringing a little levity in a place that’s full of tension — I view it as essential.
“That’s my personality. I’m pretty deadly serious about the work, but trying to break tension is not a bad idea when you can.”
This week is Shupe’s last as a sitting judge.
Shupe retired once before, in 2000.
However, he stayed on with the provincial court as an ad-hoc judge — basically working part-time as needed, often in courthouses in far-flung communities across B.C.
Given that travel schedule — Shupe figures he’s been working out of town for about one week of every month since “retiring” 12 years ago — it’s nice, he said, to spend his last week as a sitting judge in Kamloops, where his legal career began in the 1960s.
It’s nice, but it’s no coincidence.
“We actually arranged for him to sit here this week because this is his home district,” said Kamloops provincial court Judge Stella Frame.
“He sits quite often out of town.”
Frame said Shupe will be missed among the small, but close-knit, group of local judges.
“He’s a nice guy to have around,” she said.
“He still likes doing what he does and I think that’s important.
“And, he’s very entertaining.
“He’s a great storyteller — but, it’s mostly about the stuff he does outside of judging.”
One such story, which Shupe recounted for KTW, began on a day in 1989 at Kamloops Airport.
Shupe, who was then a pilot, but is quick to admit his licence to fly has long-since lapsed, took his eldest son and a friend up for a flight.
However, the plane they were planning on using was out of service, so they took a replacement.
“The configuration of the cockpit was completely different,” Shupe said.
“I shouldn’t have taken it up. We should have just gone home.”
But, they didn’t.
“I hit wind shear at Ashcroft,” Shupe said of the ill-fated flight.
“The plane stalled and we came down just short of the runway at the airstrip there.”
The crash destroyed the airplane, but no one was injured.
Something else Shupe is well-known for — not just in Kamloops, but in communities across the globe — is the hand-crafted wooden toys he builds in his home shop.
He’d been doing it for years, at first donating the pieces to Christmas Amalgamated and other local charities.
Then came the devastating Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, which caused widespread death and devastation in South Asia.
Shupe went on a trip to Sri Lanka — one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami — in February 2005. Since then, he’s been sending his high-quality, home-made wooden toys to the island nation.
In the years since, he has also begun shipping the toys to other Third-World countries, including Afghanistan and Nicaragua.
So, now that he’s retiring — for real this time — will Shupe be spending more time in the toy workshop?
Not likely, he said, but only because that would be impossible.
“I don’t dabble,” he said. “I’m in that shop frequently and I don’t dabble when I’m out there.”
But, he does plan to do more fishing and spend more time with his grandkids.
Shupe said he’ll miss one thing more than anything else when it comes to leaving his judicial career behind.
“My colleagues,” he said.
“There isn’t much by way of legal argument or fact base I haven’t heard at one time or another, so it isn’t that. But, the people I will.”
Especially the incoming judges.
“I have always said to the newbies, ‘Hold your feet to the fire, do not amass a large number of reserve judgements, but also keep a balance in your life,’” he said.
“I also say, ‘Stay connected to your community.’ That’s so important.”
It’s something Shupe has truly done since he first arrived in Kamloops in the 1960s as a University of B.C. law student to do his articles.
“I came, I had a look, I liked what I saw,” he said.
“My whole career has been here. I married a Kamloops girl and we are now 38 years married.
“We have many grandchildren and this is home.”