Honour thy father
A Seikhon family legacy
By Brian J. Martin
On April 27, 2010, Sukhi Seikhon presented UFV with a cheque for $21,000. With that donation, the Seikhon family completed their $35,000 pledge to UFV, started in 2005 in support of the university’s commitment towards funding for the provincial Regional Innovation Chair in Canada–India Business and Economic Development. By paying out their pledge, the Seikhons demonstrated their determination and commitment to fulfill an obligation and honour the memory of family patriarch Master Ajit Singh Seikhon.
|Ajit Singh Seikhon (featured in photo frames) instilled core values such as faith, commitment, and generosity, to his four sons -- Baldev, Harnek, Sukhdev, and Ajmer. The family contines to honour thy father and has fulfilled a $35,000 pledge to UFV in support of the university’s commitment towards funding for the provincial Regional Innovation Chair in Canada–India Business and Economic Development.|
But this is not merely the story of someone cutting a cheque; it is the story of the success of a family and their belief in the values handed down by one man.
Honour, commitment, integrity: these are the values Ajit Singh Seikhon instilled in his family. When Seikhon came to Canada in 1971, he had little more than the shoes on his feet, his best suit, and the determination to succeed and make a better life for himself and his family. Landing in Winnipeg and eventually arriving in the Fraser Valley, Seikhon chose not to follow his calling as a qualified teacher, but rather to strive to become self-reliant. He realized that he could benefit from the valley’s major industry, agriculture, and he became a berry farmer. Years later, with wife Mohinder minding the home and four sons — Baldev, Harnek, Sukhdev (Sukhi), and Ajmer (Jerry) — doing whatever they could to help, Seikhon and his family moved from the basement of a friend’s home to their own farm. He had realized his dream.
He was his own boss working hard to provide for his family. His family in turn worked just as hard wherever they could in support — tending crops by day and driving a taxi at night. There was hardship along the way. At one point in the late 1980s they lost nearly everything to bankruptcy. Through it all, they stayed together, supported one another, and ultimately triumphed. Much of their success now can be attributed to those universal values brought from India to a new land.
Ajit Seikhon’s inspiration and influence cannot be measured lightly. Two of his granddaughters recall the strength of the man.
“He was an educated man, so I turned to him for help with my homework,” says Kiren Seikhon, a law graduate who begins articling this fall.
“He always told me you can only be held back by the limits you put on yourself,” says her sister Jessy Seikhon, a loans officer at a local credit union. Both women remember their grandfather as a kind, charismatic man: a leader both at home and in the Fraser Valley Indo-Canadian community. “People would come to him, seek his advice, counsel, and respect,” recalls Jessy. “Who he was has shaped in many ways who we all are as a family, and we strive to live up to his memory.”
Ajit passed away in 2000 at only 63, but he left behind a lasting legacy — a successful enterprise and a strong, loving family who bear witness to his hard work. He may have transformed himself from an educator to a farmer, but he never stopped teaching those around him. Ajit Seikhon saw the fruits of his labour in the generations that have followed.
It would be five years before a chance to commemorate his father presented itself to Sukhi Seikhon. Establishing a BC Regional Innovation Chair in Canada–India Business and Economic Development at UFV was a coup for the institution, and support from the community was essential to securing the provincial government’s commitment, as the grant for the Chair was contingent upon matching community funding.
Sukhi appreciated the benefits to the region, the Indo-Canadian community, and business in BC that the Chair would bring. He also saw the perfect opportunity for himself and his brothers to honour the man who had given them so much — their father. Thus they pledged $35,000 towards the Chair. Today, a plaque bearing the names of Ajit and Mohinder Seikhon sits prominently displayed outside of the office of DJ Sandhu, who holds the Innovation Chair position at UFV.
Farming the Fraser Valley is not easy. Ask anyone who has had the experience. When they committed to their gift, the Seikhon brothers had no way of knowing whether the vagaries of Mother Nature would provide enough for them to maintain the pledged annual payments. After two payments, their support waned, but not their desire. They may have been unable to pay for several years, but they were never unwilling. This final contribution is a testament to their determination.
When reflecting on his father’s life, Sukhi cannot help but think of the challenges endured. But he also thinks of the pride he still feels for his father’s accomplishments, sentiments echoed by his brothers, and even acknowledged by their children. “Everything we have today is because of him,” says Sukhi. “He gave us the strength to succeed. We could not pass up the opportunity to honour him in the way he appreciated most — through education.”
Ajit Seikhon, with Mohinder by his side, carved a new life for himself and his family, built a business, and nurtured a community. Respected by those who knew him, loved by family and friends, and now honoured at UFV by his sons, he leaves a legacy that carries on today. One which shows others that hard work has its rewards and that perseverance will prevail. By instilling such core values as faith, commitment, and generosity, others may now benefit and share in the Seikhon success.
|The Seikhon family, above, supports the Regional Innovation Chair in Canada–India Business and Economic Development at UFV as a tribute to their late patriarch Ajit Singh Seikhon.|