The Hermit of Qualicum Beach

Qualicum Beach museum seeks to rediscover reclusive pioneer with local tales

A statue of the hermit at the Qualicum Beach Museum.

A statue of the hermit at the Qualicum Beach Museum.

“It’s a good life. You go to bed when you like, get up when you like and eat when you are hungry. What more could you ask?”

— Giuseppe Roat

Hermits, by definition, aren’t big on talking to their neighbours and Giuseppe Roat was no exception.

The Qualicum Beach hermit avoided contact with people, especially women, slipping into town early in the morning to do his shopping in order to avoid being seen.

That’s a problem for Netanja Waddell.

The manager of the Qualicum Beach Museum is looking for people who knew the Austrian-born Roat, who died in 1962 at age 82.

“He was very much an eccentric fellow,” Waddell said. “I guess he could have been called the first hippie. He lived the way he wanted, close to nature, in a very sort of wild way.”

The hermit of Qualicum Beach as he was known, opened what was the first museum in town, located at the Hilliers cutoff shortly after returning from service in the First World War.

“The hermit arrived in the late 1920s and during the 1930s and ‘40s he owned 44 acres in what is now known as the Hermitage Park subdivision,” Waddell said. “He said people gave him a pain in the neck so he made a career out of solitude.”

Solitude that is, of a fairly public kind.

“He made his own museum and would charge people to come through it and that’s what he lived off,” Waddell said. “He also had a spring he called Crystal Spring and he would charge 25 cents to take a sip.”

The Crystal Springs Museum of Nature Art included oddities and First Nations artifacts, all of which were auctioned off to the highest bidder upon his death.

He might have been a hermit, but Roat was a shrewd businessman, who one year made $10,000 from his attraction and he acquired 75 lots in the Qualicum Beach area. Although shy and retiring, Roat knew a good thing when he saw it and he used his reputation to attract people to his museum, going as far as dressing up in an improbable First Nations costume or posing to feed baby deer for picture postcards.

“He did very well,” Waddell said. “Most people don’t know we had a hermit or that we have a whole subdivision named after him. He was the first one who wanted to keep some sense of history and collect stories describing events that occurred in town, so we want to honour him with our display.”

That display includes a statue of the hermit carved by the late Ed McMillan, whose widow, Phyllis, loaned it for the event. It also includes a couple of large pieces of bark he had visitors sign when they dropped by — with people signing from as far away as Vancouver, Winnipeg and even Oakland, California.

“They came from all over the place to see him and to see what he had,” Waddell said. “The word must have gone out that he was here.”

When she began putting together the display, Waddell began to run into residents who had their own stories about the hermit — and it’s those stories she wants to collect.

“People would share, saying ‘I met him while I was growing up’ or ‘we snuck out at night to see his museum grounds,’” Waddell said.

She has set up a book in the museum for people to write down their recollections of the hermit and is hoping residents will drop by to write down their memories, e-mail to or call her at 250-752-5533.



Just Posted

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue Society has outgrown its home at the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department and will soon move to its new operations hall at the Qualicum Beach Airport. (PQB News file photo)
The Qualicum Beach Farmers Market is one of the organizations approved for a grant-in-aid by the Town of Qualicum Beach. (PQB News file photo)
COVID-19: Town of Qualicum Beach awards $80K in relief funds to community groups

Pandemic has put a financial strain on many organizations

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Whiskey Creek gas station destroyed by fire after camper van explosion

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read