George Tidball Jr. leads a riderless horse with the stirrups turned backwards

Friends and family remember George Tidball

He was a well-known leader in the business and equestrian community, and a longtime Langley resident.

Friends from many walks of life joined with family members on Sunday at Thunderbird Show Park to remember George Tidball.

Mr. Tidball, founder of the Keg restaurant chain, original McDonald’s franchisee for Western Canada and builder and co-founder with his wife Dianne of the two Thunderbird facilities in Langley, died on June 3 at the age of 83.

The Tidball family are longtime Langley residents, having moved here in 1969.

Among those paying tribute to him on Sunday were Township Mayor Jack Froese, fellow restauranteurs Bus Fuller, Neil McLean and David Aisenstat and musicians Ian Tyson and Aaron Pritchett.

Also speaking were the Tidballs’ four children — Kathy Robbins, Stephen Tidball, Jane Tidball and Laura Balisky.

The memorial event had a distinctly western theme, with many of those attending attired in western garb. Grandson George Tidball Jr. led a riderless horse as a mounted cowboy entourage paid tribute to Mr. Tidball.

Mr. Tidball was born in Carstairs, Alberta and graduated from high school in  Penticton. He and Dianne were married in 1952. In 1956, he graduated as a chartered accountant and shortly afterwards, went to work for Alcan in Kitimat. He attended an IBM course in New york City that year and returned to create Alcan’s first computerized inventory program.

In 1958, he own the gold medal for having the highest score in Canada’s certified management accountant (CMA) program. In 1959, he impressed a visiting Harvard professor who offered him the opportunity to attend Harvard, where he attained an MBA in economics in 1961 and was at the top of his class.

He then attended the University of Chicago, beginning a PhD program under Milton Friedman. He left in 1962 to begin working with consulting firm McKinsey and Co.

While in Chicago, Dianne discovered McDonalds, which was popular with her young children. After the Tidballs returned to Vancouver in 1962, she prompted him to write to McDonalds and inquire about bringing the chain to Canada. He got the rights to the chain for Western Canada, with an option for the rest of the country. The first Canadian McDonalds opened in Richmond in 1967.

He opened 32 stores before selling the franchise back to head office.

When the Tidballs moved to Langley, they build an indoor riding arena, and the family rode Quarter horses.

Mr. Tidball opened the first Keg and Cleaver restaurant in 1971 in North Vancouver. In 1972, the Tidballs purchased land for the original Thunderbird Equestrian Centre at 88 Avenue and 200 Street, north of Highway 1. It was both a riding centre and contained the Keg in the Country restaurant, a very popular Langley dining spot.

The Tidballs were enthusiastic supporters of all types of riding, and Mr. Tidball accompanied his daughter Laura to the Summer Olympics in 1984 in Los Angeles, and 1988 in Seoul, where she competed in equestrian events.

In 1992, he and his son Stephen took part in team roping at the Cloverdale Rodeo and finished as top Canadian team ropers.

In 1998, the original Thunderbird centre was sold for redevelopment. It was combined with other property in the area to become the Colossus movie theatre and a shopping centre.

Thunderbird Show Park at 248 Street and 72 Avenue opened in 2000.

In 2005, Mr. Tidball was inducted into the B.C. Restaurant 0Hall of Fame in the pioneer category, and in 2009, he was inducted into the Jump Canada Hall of Fame, in the builder category.

He is survived by his wife Dianne, four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and his brother andy sister.

Just Posted

VIDEO: Scouts in Langley learn how to communicate during emergencies

Weekend event at Camp McLean part of worldwide Jamboree On The Air and Jamboree On The Internet

ELECTION 18: Langley Township, you chose Jack Froese for mayor

Township voters went with a familiar face, handing incumbent a third term as mayor

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Who won and who didn’t in the Lower Mainland votes

A look at the region’s mayoral races, starting with Doug McCallum coming back to win in Surrey

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Three strong earthquakes reported off Vancouver Island

The quakes, all measuring more than 6.0 on the richter scale, were about 260 kilometres west of Tofino

Voting set to start in B.C. proportional representation referendum

Two-part ballots now being mailed to all registered voters

Fraser Valley man dead after head on crash in Okanagan

Accident occurred at about 7:35 a.m.

B.C. oncologist changing the face of breast cancer treatment

Dr. Juanita Crook, a Kelowna oncologist, has seen 100 per cent success using brachytherapy to treat breast cancer in some patients.

Newly-elected Lower Mainland mayor won’t drink his city’s tap water

White Rock’s Darryl Walker is concerned about its quality

Kennedy Stewart challenged with building bridges as mayor of Vancouver: expert

The former NDP MP, who ran as an Independent, will lead 10 councillors divided across four parties

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Most Read