Longtime Surrey resident Al Cleaver was photographed chatting with friends and colleagues during a park dedication in his name near 119A Street and 100 Avenue.

Former Surrey Fire Chief helped preserve city’s heritage

Retired Surrey Fire Chief and Surrey Civic Treasure, Al Cleaver, is mourned with heavy hearts.

Al Cleaver, a former fire chief of Surrey who championed the city’s history and heritage, passed away Thursday morning at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

He was 88.

That afternoon, the Surrey Fire Fighters Association announced the passing of the 2010 Surrey Civic Treasure “with deepest regrets and heavy hearts.”

Cleaver, who retired as Surrey Fire Chief in 1986 after serving 28 years, was also the Surrey Fire Service’s first training officer.

In retirement, he continued to embody community service and volunteerism, earning recognition as a Surrey Civic Treasure in 2010.

His nomination was put forward by the Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archives Society, Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission, Surrey Historical Society and Surrey Professional Fire Fighters Pioneer Association.

Cleaver founded the Friends of the Surrey Museum Society, which raised more than $1 million for the Surrey Museum capital campaign.

After the new museum in Cloverdale opened, Cleaver continued to lobby for phase II – a commitment he stuck with until his dying day.

The original project was scaled back on the understanding a second phase would follow within 10 years.

But in 2011, the society asked the city to return more than $200,000 plus interest from a $450,000 reserve fund.

With the money, Cleaver and the Friends Society launched an endowment and a sponsorship program offering free admission to the museum.

Just last week, Cleaver seemed brightened by some promising news from City Hall on phase II from fellow “Friends of the Museum,” the society’s vice-chair Ursula Maxwell-Lewis told the Reporter. He had been too ill to attend the meeting in person.

Cleaver was a past president of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association, had chaired the Surrey Heritage Advisory Committee and the Heritage Services Community Advisory Board, and served on the Surrey Tourism Association.

He hosted heritage week bus tours, worked on heritage commissions, and helped the Surrey Professional Pioneer Fire Fighters Society raise money for a fire fighters’ history gallery in the Surrey Museum.

Al Cleaver Park in North Surrey is named after him.

In early November, he was pictured on the hustings supporting another Surrey Fire Service alumnus – city council candidate Mike Starchuk, who won his seat.

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