Pat John, First Nations actor on long running TV show ‘The Beachcombers,’ dies at 69

Molly's Reach is seen in Gibsons, B.C. Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Molly's Reach was the resturant in the popular Canadian TV show "The Beachcombers. " . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Pat John, an actor on the long-running Canadian television show “The Beachcombers,” has died at the age of 69.

John, a member of the shíshálh First Nation in Sechelt, B.C., was one of the first Indigenous actors to play a contemporary character on Canadian TV and started in his late teens.

He played the role of Jesse Jim, a young business partner with the show’s main character, Nick Adonidas, played by Bruno Gerussi. They were log salvagers in the series that became a national hit and gained an international audience over its 18-year run, which ended in 1990.

Co-star Jackson Davies, who played an RCMP constable, says John suffered health problems in recent years and died Wednesday.

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Davies says John had a natural acting ability and his role as an Indigenous character in a modern setting, instead of a historical one, made a mark on Canadian culture.

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“I don’t think we ever thought, ‘Oh, we are making a statement here,’ or maybe I was just too naive,” Davies said Thursday.

“It was a show about this kid who happened to be Indigenous and he ends up getting a partnership with this Greek immigrant guy … and being a log salvager.”

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Other Indigenous actors later joined the show, which never tried to hide the fact it was Canadian. It was shot on location in Gibsons, B.C., where the fictional Molly’s Reach restaurant was later turned into a real restaurant and tourist attraction.

John had a warm smile and a calm demeanour, Davies said. The two were in close contact in recent years.

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“We’d talk obviously about the show. But we’d also talk about life, where he was in his life, where I was in my life, our struggles, things like that. And he was a great listener and he had a great laugh.”

John’s acting career pretty much ended after the “Beachcombers” run, save for a reunion series in 2002.

There was no immediate word on the cause of his death.

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