The descendants of two brothers who moved to Canada from China in 1912 and later bought a homestead in West Kelowna, B.C., are donating a parcel of the land to the city.
The city announced last week that descendants of Mar Fee and Mar Jok, who bought a roughly 400-acre homestead in the 1950s in what is now known as Rose Valley, have been working with the city to establish a community legacy for part of the land.
Most of the 400 acres was sold or donated to the city for community use when the family stopped farming decades ago, but a 25-acre parcel — now owned by Mar Fee's daughter-in-law Ann Marr — has remained undeveloped. Part of that parcel, east of Mar Jok Elementary School, has been sold to the city for soccer fields and part of it has been donated for use as a walking and cycling trail.
An off-leash dog park will exist on the land until the soccer fields and the trail are built.
"The Marr family has a long history of giving back to this community and this is no exception," West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom said in a press release. "Ensuring this section of their family homestead will remain a piece of West Kelowna's history is a wonderful tribute to a community they have called home for decades."
The brothers moved to Kelowna from Revelstoke in the 1920s, opening the Star Restaurant on Water Street in 1927 and the Golden Pheasant Café on Bernard Avenue in 1929.
After buying the homestead in the 1950s, the brothers grew asparagus, had a variety of fruit trees and raised domestic animals and birds.
Mar Fee's grandson Adrian Marr — a retired Edmonton police officer who has made West Kelowna home since 2019 — says donating a piece of family land for public enjoyment aligns with his grandfather's and great uncle's history of community service.
"In the 1930s [Great] Depression, my family would provide free soup after closing hours to those in need," Marr told Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South. "Our family's always been involved with the community and always been community-minded, so we thought that was a great way to give it back to the community."
According to Marr, Mar Jok was an exceptional athlete while studying at Revelstoke Secondary School. After graduation, he served as a Canadian Army reserve officer and a court interpreter for Chinese Canadians.
Mar Jok passed away in West Kelowna in 1983. Mar Fee died in 1974, several years after moving to Edmonton to live with his son Quentin Marr, Adrian Marr's father.
Marr says his dad would love to see all the physical activities happening on his land that keep local residents happy and healthy.
"He was very active and loved the outdoors, quite the athlete," Marr said. "Ultimately, he wanted that land [to be] used for the community for that purpose — for health, wellness, and especially for our four-legged loved ones."
Tap the link below to hear Adrian Marr's interview on Daybreak South: