James Lewis Sangster was born on October 29, 1891, in Victoria, British Columbia. The Sangster family, consisting of parents Alexander and Elizabeth, along with children Alice, Walker, Rufus, Helen (Nellie), non-identical twins Lewis and Philip, and George, arrived in New Westminster from Victoria in 1895 on the paddlewheeler Yosemite. Around age 7, Lewis, who was called by his friends, "Lewie", began earning some money selling newspapers, delivering telegrams and shining shoes. In 1904, he had saved enough money to buy a Kodak postcard camera, and began to document his years growing up in New Westminster.
Lewis Sangster was an outstanding local athlete. He and his four brothers were Regional Champions in basketball, and Sangster was a member of the New Westminster Salmonbellies field lacrosse team for several years in the early 1910s, including being a part of the 1913 and 1914 Minto Cup wins. He was also a medal-winning local sprinter.
Lewis Sangster held a job as a clerk in the City Treasurer’s office in New Westminster until late 1915. On April 7, 1915, Lewis Sangster at age 23, married Naomi Appleton in a ceremony in Sacramento, California followed by a honeymoon at the Panama-Pacific World’s Fair in San Francisco. The young couple moved to New Westminster followed shortly thereafter by her family. The newlyweds were only able to spend seven months together before Lewis Sangster enlisted in the 131st Battalion in New Westminster, B.C. in October of 1915.
The 131st Battalion trained at camp in Vernon, B.C. until October 31st, 1916 when they were deployed overseas as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). The 131st Battalion was absorbed by the 30th Reserve Battalion in England on November 14, 1916. In France, because of his running skills, Lewis was appointed to the dangerous job of Scout for the 47th Battalion of the new Canadian Corps. He represented his battalion at the Canadian Corps Sports held behind the lines in France. He ran the short sprints and came second to later Olympian Tom Longboat. After returning to the trenches he was invalided to England with double pneumonia. His medical papers were signed by Major John McCrae of “In Flanders Fields” fame.
Upon his return from overseas service in 1919, Lewis returned to find his job as clerk for the City had been given to another in his absence overseas. However, he was employed by the city in another position until March 1920. Lewis then became a successful insurance underwriter for the Mutual Life of Canada for the next 40 years. Lewis and Naomi began a family immediately after his return from the war. Son Ross in 1919, daughters Norma Sangster and Evelyn Sangster were born in 1928 and 1934 respectively.
Lewis Sangster became one of New Westminster’s most colourful public figures over the last fifty years of his life. He served on the New Westminster city council for most years beginning in 1931 until 1960. Sangster was mayor of New Westminster for 1949 and 1950. To Mayor Sangster belongs the credit in acquiring Irving House for the city in 1950 which then became a museum. Lewis Sangster was also a prominent member in many service organizations in the Royal City, including the Native Sons, Masonic Order, Knights Templar, Kiwanis Club, Westminster Regiment Association, Westminster Club, Legion, Odd Fellows, Elks and YMCA. Sangster was also known as New Westminster’s unofficial beekeeper, as he was passionate about his hobby of beekeeping.
James Lewis Sangster died on May 11th, 1968, at the age of 76.