Ken Coley-Donohue, VHS 1987 35 Years Later, A Full-Circle Moment
By Linda Baker, VHS 1969
Thank heavens young Ken Coley-Donohue stepped up when shop teacher Fred Packford told him he was smart enough to apply for that School District scholarship. Ken had natural talents, but his lack of confidence stalled the recognition and rewards he deserved.
Vic High. 1987. Ken is in Grade 12. School in general had been challenging, his dyslexia getting in the way of learning the way the system taught. But nothing got in the way when it came to using his hands, or developing his skills in the woodworking, drafting, or boatbuilding classes taught by Fred Packford. There he excelled.
When Fred said apply for that scholarship and Ken said he didn’t have the smarts, Fred’s booming teacher voice filled the room: “Never say that! You are smart and you can do anything you put your mind to!” So Ken worked hard, and he applied for and won that District scholarship. He also won the Vic High Technology award for 1987.
“Mr. Packford’s words were a life-defining moment for me,” says Ken.
Victoria. 1990. Ken joined Vintage Woodworks Inc, bringing his exceptional joinery and woodworking skills, his knowledge of modern technology, and his business resourcefulness with him. He eventually bought the business and now has 20 employees, a 14,000 square foot shop in Central Saanich, and an award-winning reputation for quality craftsmanship.
Vintage Woodworks specializes in heritage restoration, and in replicating energy efficient custom wood windows, doors and storefronts. They rely on centuries-old mortise and tenon joinery to achieve their high standards, adding state of the art technology to ensure consistent preparation of the elements to be joined. Customers across Canada and in the U.S., particularly many with restoration projects in Vancouver, have worked with Ken and his team to restore and replicate the old to blend with the new in hundreds of heritage restoration projects.
“We source most of our kiln-dried Douglas fir from Vancouver Island,” says Ken, “and our glazing is all inserted by hand. We also make our own counterbalance weights here in our shop.”
Over the years Ken has employed and helped train many skilled workers, the low staff turnover a testament to the positive work environment Ken has helped foster. Numerous staff have been helped to achieve their Joinery Red Seal tickets. Vintage Woodworks has been part of the restoration of thousands of buildings in BC and North America, but Ken’s proudest achievement might be a recent one: winning the contract to restore and replicate the windows at Vic High, currently undergoing the most significant upgrades since it was built in 1914.
Here’s the east (Girls’ Entrance) side of Vic High with windows removed for restoration. Replica Vic High windows are shown framed and painted. The last photo shows a Vic High 3-over-3 window as glazing is installed.
“It was very important to me to win that contract,” says Ken. “It feels like a full-circle moment and reminds me what a difference Fred Packford made in my life, and what a difference so many teachers make in the life of their students.”