The story of the Ketcham family and West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. is the story of three founders of the company, sons of Seattle lumber broker and forest industry pioneer Henry Holman Ketcham, and his grandson, who leads the company today. The Ketcham family core values remain true to this day: treat people fairly, laugh out loud, count pennies, and work harder than anyone else in the business to be the best.
In 1955 the three brothers purchased the Two Mile Mill in Quesnel, BC. They grew that one small mill with twelve employees into a company that is the largest producer of lumber in North America. Today the company still celebrates what those fifteen people accomplished.
Early success provided the ability to expand and with Sam at the helm the company purchased a number of small bush mills in the Cariboo. These were often family operations which resulted in more and more families being added to the West Fraser roster.
Growth continued through the late 60s and early 70s but tragedy struck on November 8, 1977 when Sam Ketcham died in a helicopter crash. Pete Ketcham was appointed Chairman of the Board.
In 1985, Henry Holman Ketcham III (Hank) became the President of the company. One year later West Fraser became a publicly traded company. In 1996 the family and business experienced another loss when Pete Ketcham lost his battle with cancer.
West Fraser, led by the Ketchams, has played an important role in the development of the communities in which it operates. The Sam Ketcham Memorial Pool in Williams Lake has been a lasting legacy to Sam and a valued community asset, as is the West Fraser Timber Park in Quesnel.
Both West Fraser and the Ketchams have been strong supporters of education and were founding supporters of the University of Northern British Columbia to ensure that young people growing up in the communities in which the company operates can access higher education close to home.
The company has contributed millions to various causes supported by its employees and throughout the communities in which it operates. West Fraser’s relinquishing of its harvesting rights in the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on earth resulted in the preservation of the 317,500 hectare area known as the Kitlope, south of Kitimat. West Fraser received considerable recognition for the preservation of the Kitlope and in 1996 Hank Ketcham was awarded the Order of British Columbia which he accepted “on behalf of all West Fraser employees”.
Hank and his wife Janice are active fundraisers for a variety of charities and reside in Vancouver. They have three adult children. Bill Ketcham continues to serve on the Board of Directors.