Just south of the old pilings for Carr’s Landing stands a heritage home known as Okanagan House. It was built in 1909 by H. R. Raymer of Kelowna for a young English adventurer Sir Edward Simons Ward and his wife Lois. Edward was educated at Eton and then travelled extensively. An avid hunter, he decorated the house with many trophy heads from his exploits.
Lois was also adventurous and would ride to Vernon wearing jodhpurs, which so shocked the community that the Mayor threatened to arrest her. Also living at the house was Grace Chapman who was soon to become Mrs. Gibson and move to what is now the heritage house at Kopje Regional Park.
The Wards returned to England at the start of World War I, where Edward served with the Grenadier Guards, achieving the rank of Captain. Although he survived the war, his marriage did not. He and Lois divorced in 1916.
In July 1930 Edward died in the Meopham Air Disaster in Kent. The small Junkers was flying from Le Touquet, France, when it exploded in mid air. The pilot and the four passengers were all killed. Along with Edward were Lord Dufferin, Vicountess Ednam and (Mrs. Henrik) Sigrid Loeffer, a well-known society hostess.
The loss of so many members of the aristocracy in one fell swoop prompted the Air Ministry to launch an extensive investigation into the cause of the crash, the first of its kind.
One puzzle remains. The 1911 Census includes the name Gwenfra Williams at Okanagan House. Named as ‘housekeeper’, Gwenfra was in fact a well known English socialite, niece of the Duchess of Wellington. Her visit to the Wards was even mentioned in the society pages of the time. Perhaps the job title was an error by the census taker, or possibly (and more likely) an upper class joke by the members of the household?