Paul Pukas was born on the family farm in Wynyard, Saskatchewan, the third of eight children. At the age of 15, having completed Grade 9, he left to find his place in the world. After a number of different jobs in Alberta and coastal BC, he went to work for Sigalet Lumber in Golden, BC. Later, with certification as a heavy-duty mechanic, pressure welder, precision machinist and millwright, Paul became the Superintendent of Maintenance for Evans Forest Products.
Elvi Lindgren, an only child, was born and raised in Golden. Her parents had immigrated from Finland, and Elvi recalls she didn’t learn to speak English until she entered Grade 1, as only Finnish was spoken in the home and neighborhood. After graduating from Grade 12, she took a business course at Calgary’s Mt. Royal Collage. Upon completion she became the manager’s secretary at Sigalet Lumber. In 1960, Elvi and Paul were married. Both children, Sheldon and Lelaine, were born in Golden.
In 1969, the family arrived in Salmon Arm and began their long, successful business career in the concrete industry. In partnership with Les Demeter, Paul purchased Mt. Ida Concrete Products Ltd. The following year they took over management of Salmon Arm Ready Mix on behalf of Baird Bros., and purchased the business in 1971. Paul built a new, fully automated computerized winter concrete batch plant and new offices to accommodate the growth in business. The next acquisition was the gravel pit in Gleneden, which supplied aggregates for the businesses, followed by the design and manufacture of a crushing system, which grew to four complete systems, of which three travelled the province, crushing winter salted highway sand. The entire family participated in the business, from learning to back up the ready-mix truck to the wash pit “using both mirrors” to Lelaine’s job of gathering up the empty cement bags and burning them to Sheldon’s job as wash crew, removing concrete from the trucks after a day’s service. Elvi did the bookkeeping while maintaining the household as well. During this time Paul and Elvi’s evenings were spent building their home on 17th St. NE, where Elvi still lives.
Cast All Concrete Ltd., a precasting business, was created in a new building on 13th Avenue SW. Paul and his brother Victor were partners in this endeavor until 1983. Mt. Ida Concrete was also moved to this location. In 1981, Paul and Les parted company with Paul retaining the ownership of Salmon Arm Ready Mix Ltd. In 2002 it was sold to Latosky Bros. In 1981, building contractor Bill Laird approached Paul about a new type of insulated roofing product incorporating concrete topping. Dow Chemical in Ohio invited Paul to prove he could bond concrete to Dow’s extruded polystyrene board. With a handshake to cement the deal, Bill and Paul became equal partners in Tech-Crete Processors Ltd. Again, Paul designed and built the equipment to produce the product, and a recycling system for the waste. The product, Concrete Top, is sold across Canada, appearing on Canada’s Parliament Buildings and the 2010 Olympic Sliding Centre in Whistler.
Another of Paul’s legacies is the Piccadilly Mall Clock Tower, which he designed and installed after he, Bill Laird and Colin Mayes formed a partnership, purchasing the mall from Federated Cooperatives in 1994. Today, Bill Laird and the Pukas family are partners in owning the centre, while Sheldon and Bill manage the “Mall on Piccadilly.“ It was Paul who led the way to obtaining permission from a number of federal, provincial and municipal authorities, as well as SABNES, to leave his haul road in place after the completion of the excavation around the Salmon Arm Wharf in 1989. The excavated material was used to create what is now called Christmas Island, and the haul road is the nature trail that now extends from the wharf out to Raven Subdivision, an outdoor amenity that both residents and visitors alike enjoy.
Paul’s love of family was the driving force behind his passion for his work. His word was his bond, his handshake a guarantee. He and Elvi believed in being fair and honest in all their endeavors and had great respect for the skills and abilities demonstrated by those who worked for and with them.
They were very aware of their good fortune in business and being able to live in “God’s Country.” When asked to help out local organizations, they rarely said ‘No. “In 2009, the family established the Paul & Elvi Pukas Family Endowment Fund with the Shuswap Community Foundation, creating a permanent legacy in remembrance of Paul.