Councillor praised for lasting legacy
He was the voice of the people.
Whether it was sitting behind a radio station mic or at Vernon city council chambers, Patrick Nicol defended the interests of the everyman.
“He would go against the flow and stand up for someone who he felt wasn’t being treated fairly,” said Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA and a friend since 1985.
“Patrick didn’t worry about being politically expedient. He did what he felt was right.”
Nicol, who died of cancer Wednesday at the age of 64, would tackle perceived injustices on his Talkback radio show, generating a strong public following.
“There will only ever be one with the kind of compassion he had,” said Gord Wiens, Kiss FM’s sales manager and a personal friend for 30 years.
“He had a wide open door and would talk to anyone.”
Nicol was a fixture at Kiss FM (formerly CJIB) from 1977 to 2010, and among his greatest thrills was spinning old albums. His knowledge of artists and bands was legendary.
“He did his homework and he did it well,” said Frank Martina, a longtime radio personality.
In 1986, Nicol ran for Vernon city council and except for six years (when he ran for mayor twice unsuccessfully) he was there until his last council meeting Jan. 13.
“As a decision-maker, Patrick was always thoughtful and he lent his unique perspective to the process. He always had something important to say,” said Anne Clarke, former mayor.
“He was valuable to the decision-making I was involved in.”
It wasn’t uncommon for Nicol to vote against a development favoured by all of his colleagues because residents in the neighbourhood expressed concern.
But even when he was on the other side of the fence, hard feelings didn’t exist.
“He had respect for everyone. He put ideas forward in a respectful manner,” said Foster.
While Nicol was elected by Vernon citizens, he looked beyond the borders and was deeply interested in the needs of the broader North Okanagan.
“He realized the regional community as a whole is a family and each community is supported by the parts of the whole,” said Rick Fairbairn, Regional District of North Okanagan vice-chairperson.
Nicol would actively attend events in Cherryville or Grindrod and his passion for the region led to him being named RDNO chairperson in 2011.
“He was a great leader and the community respected him for it,” said Fairbairn.
Nicol used his profile to embrace special causes.
“I was in absolute awe when he helped spearhead RDNO’s and the provincial government’s efforts in the wheelchair accessible washrooms at two local beaches,” said Lisa Briggs, with Independent Living Vernon.
“He was such an eloquent speaker providing others with great insight about accessibility issues for the disabled. We have lost an incredible advocate.”
Nicol was known as Mr. Canada as he organized Vernon’s Canada Day celebrations for decades. He was also a keen booster of Vernon Winter Carnival.
Beyond the glare of politics and broadcasting, there was a personal side to Nicol. He would often provide gifts or go out of his way to make someone feel special. He never wanted a fuss over his actions.
“In my life, I don’t know anyone so genuinely honest and sincere and he cared so much about people,” said friend Ruby Sharma.
“He was always so positive.”
Advice was always available if wanted.
“It’s unbelievable the number of broadcasters that went on to careers in other cities that he touched,” said Wiens.
“He was a mentor in my life and all aspects of my political career. He was an inspiration,” added Fairbairn.
There was a sombre mood Friday as Vernon council met for a scheduled budget session. Flowers marked Nicol’s vacant seat and there was a moment’s silence in his honour.
Many residents have been contacting city hall since Nicol died.
“There’s been an outpouring of respect and grief. He touched a lot of people,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.