Garrett Wynne, of Verdurmen Law, has been practising law for 50 years and continues to enjoy his work in the profession. (Contributed)

Garrett Wynne, of Verdurmen Law, has been practising law for 50 years and continues to enjoy his work in the profession. (Contributed)

‘Small town lawyer’: Salmon Arm’s Garrett Wynne reflects on half a century in law

“People get themselves into the weirdest situations and sometimes you can help them get out.”

By Barb Brouwer

Contributor

Fifty years ago, a young man realized a long-held dream.

Garrett (Garry) Norman Wynne began practising law and, at age 77, has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

“I enjoy working and it’s an interesting job that gets me up in the morning and fills my day,” he said. “I meet lots of people, solve some problems and hopefully not create too many.”

Wynne earned a BA at the University of Alberta and taught in a high school in Cremona, Alta. Two years later, he entered law school at UBC and was called to the bar in BC Supreme Court on May 15, 1972.

He articled in Kelowna and one year later, opened an office in Salmon Arm where his increasingly busy practice involved registering land transfers and mortgages.

“I have done a fair amount of family law and some civil litigation, fields where some people have very difficult problems,” he says of donning robes to represent clients in court. “I don’t do family law or litigation any more, it’s too hard on my system at my advanced age.”

In 2007, he moved into the offices of Verdurmen & Company, now known as Verdurmen Law.

“Garry has never taken for granted the enormous responsibilities he has as counsel for his clients and as an officer of the courts,” said Glenn Verdurmen. “His direct and simple advice to his clients are his stock in trade. He never hides the truth or gives false hope.”

Verdurmen also credits Wynne with his ability to adapt to legislative changes and an avalanche of new technology.

While being a lawyer was always his plan, pinpointing a reason for his career choice is less clear.

“I really don’t know,” he mused. “It’s an interesting field; people get themselves into the weirdest situations and sometimes you can help them get out.”

Wynne grew up in Berwyn, a small Alberta town in the Peace River region, a place he describes as then having a population of 300, counting the dogs.

“I’m a small town lawyer,” he said. “When really difficult cases arose, I would always send people to the experts in the big centres.”

He called a single appearance at the BC Court of Appeal interesting.” The case was one between Wynne’s client, the owner of a local gas station, and a large oil firm “with very deep pockets.”

“We succeeded on the trial but lost on appeal,” he said wryly. “It made me realize I had no interest in returning to a Court of Appeal.”

Wynne has found many other things to accomplish in the city he and wife Faye Perry continue to enjoy. Curling, hockey and golf have kept him active for many years.

“I played hockey when I was younger,” he said. “I was never any good, but I enjoyed it.”

When he quit playing, Roy Sakaki wouldn’t let him hang up his skates. Instead, he skated into a 25-year career refereeing minor and recreational hockey.

Always a nervous flyer, Wynne took to the skies to try to overcome his fear.

“I thought well, OK, I’’l take the bull by the horns,” he said, noting he earned his private pilot’s licence. “I flew a few hours and decided it was too expensive a hobby and it didn’t reduce the stress of flying.”

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The community minded lawyer sat on council for one three-year term, and ran for mayor three times in the 1980s.

“I don’t know how come, but lots of lawyers become involved in politics, which is a similar field where you’re trying to solve insoluble problems,” he said. “I learned my political career was short.”

Wynne said Salmon Arm has been a wonderful place in which to live and work; a small town whose population was between 6,000 and 8,000 when he arrived.

No longer participating in sports, Wynne said he does spend time playing his piano.

Once his constant companion, Wynne’s beloved old dog, Sammy, is now deaf and blind. She no longer accompanies him to the office, instead remaining at home sleeping most of the day away.

He is philosophical about his own senior years.

“I tell people that my age is divisible by 11, perhaps by the last time.”


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