For the second time in one year, a long-time member of the Rimbey Detachment of the RCMP is calling it a career.
After a 35-year stint with the national police force, including a record-setting 25 years in the same community, Cst. Bill Coulthard will be officially retiring some time in mid-September, but that wasn’t part of the original plan.
“I’ve been in Rimbey for 25 years to the day on July 4, so the idea was I was going to retire on the fourth of July and that would’ve given me 25 years here and 35 years in the RCMP,” Coulthard said. “But due to the sergeant’s position being vacant, if I retired in July that would’ve meant the Detachment would have had to run throughout the summer with only four members and that’s hard to do.”
Coulthard entered the RCMP’s Training Depot in Regina on May 5, 1974 and graduated on Oct. 21 of that year and proceeded to his first posting of St. Paul, Alberta where he remained until November of 1975 when he transferred to the Edmonton Guard Room.
For the most part, his duties included guarding the court and law buildings, donning the Red Serge occasionally to shuffle suspects or the convicted in and out of the Court of Queen’s Bench which was required back then, and traveling from coast to coast to return prisoners who had fled for other parts of the country. Among those were a number of flights back and forth to his hometown of Montreal as well as Kelowna and other locations.
In March of 1976 he was on the move again, this time to Stony Plain where he worked both in the Detachment and on highway patrol. While there he completed a boating course and was responsible for boating duties that included checking for valid fishing licenses, ensuring water vessels had the proper life jackets aboard as well as other duties such as enforcing liquor laws.
Unfortunately, he also saw his share of misery on the water. Not only was he required to attend to and rescue people from a sailboat that had capsized in heavy winds, but also located and retrieved six drowning victims in one summer including a six year-old boy.
Other duties while in Stony Plain included working as a school liaison officer and patrolling Highway 16 back in the bad old days when it was only two lanes and carried the dubious title of “The Death Highway” due to the extremely high number of fatalities each year. In fact, Coulthard said it was no surprise to issue 50 or more tickets – most for speeding, in an afternoon.
Things weren’t all that bad for Coulthard during his eight years in Stony Plain as that is where he first met his future wife Roni – short for Veronica.
From there, it was off to Rimbey in the summer of 1984 where, to the best of his knowledge, he began a stint that has set a longevity record for most consecutive years at the same Detachment. Later that summer his wife joined him here, and as the old saying goes, “the rest is history”.
As for a personal highlight of his career, Coulthard pointed to stability as the one key factor in his longevity.
“I guess the biggest highlight if I had to put a finger on it, would be being stationed here for 25 years,” he said. “I raised a daughter and had a happy family life with not moving from one place from another, especially when children are involved. When they’re at a certain age or a certain level in school, it’s really hard to pull them out of school and move them around. So I’ve been really, really lucky to be able to stay here, raise my daughter and have my wife be happy in her job, myself being happy with my job and my daughter to be happy in one place, so that’ll probably be the highlight.”
Coulthard’s retirement marks the second of its kind for the local Detachment in just over one year. In April of 2008, former Rimbey RCMP officer Ian McLean retired after 34 years of service.