Gaal

Arlene Gaal, a Kelowna woman who was often consulted by international TV crews that came to the Okanagan in search of Ogopogo, has died at age 84.

Arlene Gaal, an avid chronicler of Rutland events who was also an expert on the legend of Ogopogo, has died.

She was 84.

"She had Rutland in her heart," Al Horning, a former MP, MLA and city councillor, said Thursday.

"Arlene was very knowledgeable about Rutland and always interested in telling Rutland's stories," Horning said, referring to Gaal's long involvement with a newspaper that focused on the community.

Gaal and her late husband Joe moved to Rutland in 1968 when the area was outside the City of Kelowna's boundaries.

She was an elementary schoolteacher who also enjoyed writing, contributing to the Rutland Weekly newspaper, teaching creative writing, and serving as president of the Okanagan Author's Association.

She also developed an interest in Ogopogo, the legendary denizen of Okanagan Lake.

She wrote three books on Ogopogo, was often contacted by people who believed they'd seen the creature, and was consulted by many television crews that came to Kelowna from around the world to prepare shows on the elusive serpent.

Gaal's own thoughts on the existence of Ogopogo varied from the light-hearted to the sincere.

Asked for her opinion of a sensational video of something unusual in the lake, filmed by a car salesman in 1989, Gaal said: "There is no doubt in my mind we are looking at an animal that hasn't been classified yet."

But after a few years without any Ogopogo sightings, Gaal suggested in 2013 the lake was getting too noisy for its liking: "I can understand with all the boats and heavy traffic on the lake. You and I would go away and hide too."

For many years, Gaal had a serious and personal devotion to finding out what led to the death of her son Joey, a professional news photographer, in Thailand in 1989.

Authorities said he drowned but Gaal believed he was murdered. Her investigations eventually prompted the RCMP to ask their Thai colleagues to re-examine the case but no charges were ever laid.

"Arlene was passionate about getting to the truth about what happened to Joey," said Horning, who in his capacity as MP for Kelowna in the late '80s and early '90s, helped Gaal in her research.

In 2014, Gaal published a 240-page book on her son's death.

"I know a lot of people might say, 'Oh, you're continuing on with a lost cause', and 'Just let it go'," Gaal said in an interview at the time.

"But this happened to me, to our family, not to them," she said. "Why wouldn't I do what I could to try to see Joey's killer brought to justice?"