The Way I See It: Thank you, Mr. Canada

Michele Blais recalls her fond memories of Vernon city councillor and Canada Day committee chair Patrick Nicol, who died Jan. 15.

Mr. Canada is the name my boys gave Patrick Nicol many years ago. His love of this country and its citizens ran deep. He was very proud of his Manitoba roots, and proud to have been on the national Canada Day committee as chair and also lead our local celebration.

He was able to visit many Canadian communities and felt so privileged to do so.

He would patiently answer numerous questions sent his way from two chatty young lads who loved his company. Questions about Canada, sports, music, Vernon and area, what made a spaceship fly, or how come some birds are noisier than others. He was great company for us.

As a mom on her own with two young boys, finding great role models was really important. We have been very fortunate to have found many in Vernon, and Patrick was one of them.

When the boys were in elementary school he found time to hang out with us, improving the boys footwork for soccer, or just hanging out listening to the jukebox, swimming, or drinking uncommon soda pops.

They would walk from Beairsto to my office at the People Place and occasionally stop in to say hello. Patrick always treated the boys like they were the most important people he had seen all day.

My oldest son’s first job was on the event’s crew at KissFM. It was a great job for him throughout high school.

I was glad that Patrick got the opportunity to be in a parenting role as I knew he had such great capacity for love, patience and kindness. Family was very important to him.

I met Patrick through his show Talkback. As a new citizen in Vernon, I would regularly tune in Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to noon, to hear what issues were causing concern in the community or to learn about a service. He was very patient with callers, allowing many to express their views. I was a guest on his show several times through my work with the local human rights committee or the Boys and Girls Club. He gave a platform for many groups to be able to present their ideas or to provide education.

Patrick’s list of qualities is many. People knew he cared about them. Whereever he went people reached out to him, saying “Hi Patrick” like he was an old friend. This ability to be comfortable with people and to genuinely have them feel important, listened to and respected is not an easy task, yet he did it with apparent ease.

His kindness and being a champion of our citizenry is legendary. What is very apparent in the outpouring of love for Patrick is how very important this was to people: to be listened to.

In our busy worlds of work, school, activities, and fast-paced technology, we are missing the fundamentals. Despite our advances in communication, technology, with umpteen ways to send messages, we are not being received as validated.

The ability to be present for a colleague, a child, a friend, a neighbour, or a frustrated individual takes patience and focus. I think we can all learn from Patrick’s strengths.

As a family we hadn’t seen Patrick for years, but we were fortunate to have lunch with him early in the new year. It was great to hear about his football picks, discuss music, his views on who should win the World Cup in junior hockey, and to talk with the boys about working with employers who are real leaders and builders.

He recommended books to all of us as he was an incredibly avid reader. My oldest dropped a book off at his house later that day and Patrick gave him a six-pack of unusual pop, having not forgotten a young boy’s taste.

Our family, like many in Vernon, will miss Patrick. He had a strong moral compass, and was a testament to values that have held the test of time: loyalty, hard work, compassion, kindness. So when we think of him, I hope we take a page from his book of life and become better for it, and listen more and be kind to each other.

And buy a flag.

Michele Blais has worked with families and children the Vernon area for the past 27 years.