Saturday, March 01, 2008

Butler Mountain's Errol Hemingson dies at 69

Butler Mountain's Hemingson dies at 69

2008-02-28 14:43 ET - Street Wire

by Stockwatch Business Reporter -

Errol Hemingson, the prototypical Vancouver stock promoter 

with the booming voice and the nickname Foghorn, died of 

congestive heart failure on Feb. 16, 2008, at 69. He was a 

week shy of his 70th birthday.

The larger-than-life Mr. Hemingson joined the Howe Street 

mining scene in the 1980s. His best-remembered company 

was Butler Mountain Minerals Corp., which won the 

Vancouver Stock Exchange's annual volume contest more 

than 25 years ago. There were many others, including 

Toodoggone Gold Inc., which also never made a mine, but 

did provide a motherlode of interest at the B.C. Securities 

Commission and a 20-year hiatus from public companies for

 Mr. Hemingson.

Growing up

Errol Cecil Hemingson was born on Feb. 23, 1938, in Portage

 La Prairie, Man. He was the second child of Norman and Ivy 

Hemingson, arriving between his brother Vincent and his sister


He grew up on a farm, which meant a lot of hard work. His friend

 Bob Swenarchuck remembers him talking about the wheat harvest:

 building stooks and working the threshing machine.

The farm boy quit school after Grade 9 and joined the Hudson's 

Bay Company in Churchill, Man., heading north as a fur trader.

At 20, Mr. Hemingson followed his uncle Alfred into the navy, 

serving from 1958-1959, allegedly becoming the Pacific Fleet's 

heavyweight boxing champion. He was stationed in Esquimalt, B.C.,

 working as a radioman on a submarine.

His first marriage

As the sailor's brief naval stint was ending, he attended a 

Christmas dance, where he found himself enchanted with

 a fetching young lady named Sally Furneaux. She was 

getting her teaching certificate at the newly opened University

 of Victoria. Life with her looked much better than life on a 

submarine, and Mr. Hemingson got an honourable discharge 

from the navy. The couple was married almost immediately, 

and moved back to Manitoba where their first child, Vincent,

 was born in 1960. Bradley arrived in 1961 and a third son,

 Kent, in 1965. The Hemingsons adopted their daughter 

Charlene in 1966. "After three boys, my mother wanted a 

daughter," says Mr. Hemingson's son Vincent.

In Manitoba, Mr. Hemingson worked for Allis-Chalmers Rumley

 Ltd., selling tractors and heavy machinery. In sales he found his

 calling, rising to vice-president of Western Canada. Prompted

 perhaps by his wife's experience at the University of Victoria,

 Mr. Hemingson started classes at night school. He completed

 his high school equivalency and then took undergraduate courses

 in agriculture and mining.

A move west

In the early 1970s, the family moved to Vancouver Island and

 Mr. Hemingson started Hemingson's Water Services, a pumping

 company. Sally also started teaching at French Creek Elementary

 School. Mr. Hemingson took up sailing with Gerry Thompson,

 a friend he met through his pumping business. Sailing, along with

 mining, became his passion. His boat, a CT-37 called the Stone Raven,

 is a fixture in many of the best stories about him.

The good salesman got his start in mining promotion through Leif

 Ostensoe, a geologist with many connections to penny stocks

 and the Vancouver Stock Exchange. Mr. Hemingson's son

 Vincent remembers seeing Mr. Ostensoe at their farm on

 Vancouver Island in the mid-1970s. At the time, Mr. Ostensoe

 was looking for copper in the Highland Valley with his company

 named Lawrence Mining Corp. "Like all good promoters, Leif

 got some of my dad's money, and he had so much into it that

 he started helping Leif raise money," Bradley Hemingson says.

To the mainland

Mr. Hemingson set sail for Vancouver in 1979. Two things

 prompted the move: his promoting required it, and his 

marriage to Sally was ending (they divorced in 1980).

 "Like most larger-than-life characters who are used to getting

 their own way ... [my dad] didn't always have the world's best

 conflict-resolution skills," Vincent explains. "If he didn't ge

t what he wanted the first time, he might just turn up the volume."

 Bradley, now a broker at Leede Financial Markets Inc., 

remembers his father's penchant for speaking loudly as well.

 "My dad would phone me up, 'You know, I got this idea' and

 I'd say 'I'm not interested.' He'd yell and scream and jump up 

and down. Some times you'd hold the phone about two feet from

 your ear. Then he'd get over it."

After arriving in Vancouver, Mr. Hemingson started promoting

 Butler Mountain. It had a polymetallic property in the Yukon and

 some good drilling results, but it never became a mine.

Mr. Hemingson promoted Butler enthusiastically. With good drill

 results, and as one of the VSE's volume leaders in the early 1980s,

 the promoter fancied a listing on the prestigious Toronto Stock 

Exchange. The Butler never quite made it to that pinnacle of 

Canadian stock prestige, but one business associate from those

 days, who wishes to remain nameless, remembers entertaining a 

delegation from Toronto on the Stone Raven. After a long night 

of partying, the gentle rocking action of a Coal Harbour dock 

proved too much for the anonymous associate's novice sea legs. 

Walking down the gangplank, "One foot went one way and the other 

foot went the other," he says of the dunking. Mr. Hemingson 

never could lure him onto the water after that mishap.

Mr. Hemingson often partied: with friends, without friends; 

on his boat, off his boat. "My father had a love affair with the grape 

that was never unrequited. No meal was complete without a bottle

 of wine," Vincent says. Mr. Hemingson's drinking was not good

 for his health; he had his first heart attack when he was 46 and

 was a frequent patron of the Canadian health system in the 

following years.

His second marriage

In 1988, after a string of young, attractive girlfriends,

 the promoter married Alexa Gilbert. He met her at 

his friend Bob Swenarchuck's wedding in 1986. "I said,

 'Errol, you've got to come and meet this gorgeous lady...

' and they sat down together and they didn't move for 

three hours," Mr. Swenarchuck remembers.

Toodoggone Gold

Around the same time he married Ms. Gilbert, Mr. Hemingson

 was busy with his latest venture, Toodoggone Gold. 

The company had incorporated in 1987, with three directors:

 Mr. Hemingson, Howard Andersen and Gordon Steblin.

 Mr. Hemingson's son Vincent joined the board in May, 1988. 

It listed on the VSE on Sept. 19, 1988.

Mr. Anderson and Mr. Steblin resigned in December, 1988,

the result of a squabble with Mr. Hemingson that had started

as the company was working on its $300,000 initial public 

offering in August. Ms. Gilbert and James Regan joined the 

board in their place.

By then, Mr. Hemingson's custodianship had left the company

 with $32,000 in its bank account and he and his new wife were

 on a sailing trip in Mexico.

The BCSC was not amused and held a hearing into

 Mr. Hemingson's casual management practices in 1990. 

The result was a 20-year ban from trading and acting as an

 officer or director of a public issuer. At the time, it was the

 longest ban the commission had ever handed out.

Sailing in Mexico

Mr. Hemingson and Ms. Gilbert did not attend their BCSC

 hearing; they were busy sailing the Stone Raven on the

 Sea of Cortez.

It was an exciting trip, missed hearings aside. Ms. Gilbert

 remembers an eventful few days at the start of the trip. 

They were cruising along when a freak summer storm 

forced them to put in at Embarcadero, a small Oregon port

 near Newport. It is a tricky passage. Compounding matters,

 the pilot Mr. Hemingson hired did not have the right charts,

 and the Stone Raven got stuck on a sandbar.

She started taking on water, and the Coast Guard showed

 up to rescue the passengers. Ms. Gilbert and four tourists

 the Hemingsons had acquired for the trip were taken off the

 boat; Mr. Hemingson and the pilot stayed on to save what 

they could of the ship's electronics and papers.

When the tide rose, Mr. Hemingson managed to sail into port. 

He was drying the ship's papers on the dock when the Coast 

Guard approached him.

"Stone Raven?" asked the white-clad officer, his sidearm clearly

 resting on his hip.

"Yes," Mr. Hemingson answered.

"You're under arrest."

It turned out the Coast Guard was looking for the Stoned Raven,

 a boat it suspected of smuggling drugs. To clear up the 

confusion, Mr. Hemingson went to show the officer the 

Stone Raven's registration, which was drying on the dock.

 Whoosh! along came a gust of wind and away went the

 precious papers.

The Coast Guard confined Mr. Hemingson and his fellow 

sailors to the Stone Raven for two days before Vincent

 faxed the ship's papers from Vancouver and proved his

 father was not a drug runner.

Mr. Hemingson's second marriage lasted two years.

Life after Toodoggone

"There's lots of guys out there who'll put together a shell,

 ... and their goal is to get as much five-cent stock as they

 can, tell a story and sell ... at the highest price they possibly

 can and fill their pockets. The only time my dad ever made 

money is when the drill hole succeeded," says Bradley. 

"If he didn't have something real to promote, he was doomed.

 More than once I know he blew himself up buying his own 

paper ... he just wanted to find a mine."

Working under the BCSC's cloud was hard, but not impossible.

 Mr. Hemingson just had to go farther afield and settle for a 

regular job. After Toodoggone, the irrepressible promoter began

 splitting his time between Canada and the United States, where

 he promoted stocks under the radar. He did some work for his 

close friend, the late Arthur Fisher, on his deal in Vietnam, which

 became Olympus Pacific Minerals Inc. The last company where

 he helped out was Inspiration Mining Corp., a potential nickel 

miner in Ontario.

Randy Miller, the president of Inspiration, says Mr. Hemingson 

drove his 45-foot motorhome to the property in Timmins. He lined

 up drillers and set up the core shack. He got the results that

 started the company moving and helped with the first financing.

 "There's not a lot to do in Timmins, so we'd sit around and shoot

 the shit and discuss the deal. I will miss him, that's for sure," 

Mr. Miller says.

"He was closer in style to Murray Pezim, I think, than today's 

promoters," says Reg Ogden, a Canaccord broker of many years

 who knew Mr. Hemingson well. "He had an extremely high energy

 level." Mr. Ogden chuckles when he tells a story about 

Mr. Hemingson and the equally hefty Mr. Fisher falling from the 

moped they had to share on the poor roads of Vietnam.

Mr. Hemingson is survived by his four children, his brother

 and sister, his three grandchildren, and his two ex-wives. 

His family will hold a wake on March 9 at the False Creek 

Yacht Club, starting at 3:30 p.m. Stories are welcome.


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