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John Barrie Conkin

October 18th, 1937 - October 12th, 2022
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John Barrie Conkin

With deep sorrow we share that Barrie Conkin passed away in White Rock, BC on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. Six days shy of his 85th birthday, there is some comfort in knowing that Barrie lived a full and robust life.

Barrie joins his beloved wife, Marie who passed away in 2016. He will be forever remembered by his children, Anne Marie (Tom) Hawkins (San Rafael, CA); Riley (Allison) Conkin (Seattle, WA); and Clare Conkin (Vancouver, BC), as well as his grandchildren, Connor, Drew and Hannah (and his recently departed furry four-footed “grandson,” Guinness). Barrie is also survived by his brother, Robert (Linda) Conkin (Kelowna, BC); and sister, Jean Conkin (North Battleford, SK). He is predeceased by his parents, Helen (Beamish) and John Conkin; sister, Margaret and brother, Gregory.

If you were stranded on an island, Barrie would be the person you’d want to be with. Not only did he have all the survival gear you could possibly need; he knew how to use it. Just check out any vehicle trunk or aircraft storage compartment Barrie owned, and you’d see how well-outfitted you’d be for any journey. Barrie’s caring manner and convivial attitude toward adverse situations would steady one’s nerves. He’d have a nickname for you in about 5 minutes and be genuinely concerned about how you were doing. That was Barrie – prepared, humble, curious, and full of good humour.

This mix of qualities came to be because of his grandparents’ hardy spirit having come from Scotland, Ireland, and Russia to homestead in Saskatchewan. His mother was a teacher in the Banana Belt and his father set up his own general store, Conkin’s Ltd., first in Maidstone and later in North Battleford. As Barrie was attending the University of BC hoping to go into dentistry, he was called to help run the family business due to his father’s health. Barrie’s loyalty to family and friends was another key quality. Barrie changed his career path to take on the full responsibility of his father’s business. When his father, John, passed away in 1970, Barrie was entrusted with Conkin’s Department Store, which he would expand and transform into a successful retail hub for the farming, First Nation, Hutterite, Mennonite, and many other local communities. Barrie was a marvel to watch in the store. His genuine and down-to-earth manner appealed to everyone he met. He valued and treated his employees and customers with great respect. When Barrie was in the store it would hum with laughter, stories and conversation.

Being the owner of a department store for over 50 years, Barrie was used to buying by the dozen. This carried over into all other areas of his life, much to Marie’s dismay. Barrie was well known for his generosity. If you knew Barrie, you were likely to receive a free warm coat, boots or shirt from his personal collection.

Community was important to Barrie. He was very civic minded from a young age, which carried through his entire life. From his early days as a leader in the Jaycees and Junior Chamber of Commerce, to his term as mayor of North Battleford, which he was especially proud of.

Barrie also loved the outdoors and experiencing them with his family and friends through his many interests including flying, sailing, fishing, hunting, and skiing. He was famous for treating his guests to “lunches” on his adventures, which always included good food and drinks.

Many Conkin family drives around town would end up at the runway of the municipal airport. There we would wait for a plane to land or take off. It was not a big airport so the wait times could be interminably long. Barrie was inspired by his mother’s brothers and aunt who were pilots and members of the Saskatchewan chapter of the International Flying Farmers. Never too late was Barrie’s creed, and at 40 he took flight lessons from Battleford Airways, operated by his good friends and teachers, Louis and Fran De Kock, and obtained his private pilot’s license. His first plane was his Uncle Ovy’s Cessna 172, which he enjoyed exploring the northern wilderness with many friends and family. Not one to do things by half measures, Barrie would go on to own and fly three different aircraft, including a twin engine Beechcraft.

Barrie’s interests were many and varied. He loved to read. If you picked up a novel, newspaper or magazine at home, you would see the signature circles and arrows pointing to points of interest that Barrie had made with his pen. The ultimate archivist, Barrie had folders with clipped out articles for everyone he knew. He only had to hear once what you were interested in, and you would have a folder full of clippings on your favorite topics.

Barrie’s family would like to give special thanks to his specialist doctors in White Rock, Dr. Collins, Dr. Offer and Dr. Skepasts, as well as the staff and especially the care team members at Amica White Rock for their tender and loving care of dad during his last year. You treated Barrie with respect and compassion, which is truly appreciated.

Barrie will be most treasured for his love and commitment to family and friends. Trips to the cottage he helped to build from the ground up at Jackfish Lake, to the local ski hill, Table Mountain he helped set up, lessons in the Canadian Rockies and multiple trips to Hawaii were full of adventures and good cheer. Many happy times were shared with Barrie over a good meal and a glass or two of wine that he had found a good deal on.  His spirit of joy and enthusiasm for so many things in life will live on in those of us who love him dearly. Barrie, we hope you are at perfect peace and “soaring freely through space on the infinite highway of the air.” We will miss you so much.

A celebration of life will be held at a later date to be announced.


Nancy Nash
March 15th, 2024

I remember your Dad and Barrie.. what I would give to be able to shop at Conkins today … real cotton garments made to last. The Conkin legacy will be remembered with affection. Thankyou Nancy Nash

Clare Conkin
October 24th, 2022

You were an Amazing, Kind, Loving , honest, smart , and Fun DAD
I will miss you Forever ❤️

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