Hearts were heavy and, unlike most days, there were very few smiles at Vernon’s Schubert Centre Tuesday.
Vernon’s community centre for seniors was a sad place after volunteers and regulars learned of the death of beloved centre manager and community pillar Jack Gareb, 76, who died in Vernon Jubilee Hospital nearly two weeks after having suffered a heart attack late in September.
Gareb, a local seniors advocate, had been with the Schubert Centre for 25 years. The facility has been a social and recreational hot spot for seniors since 1984.
“Jack was a guy who made sure when you interacted with him you went away happy,” said Vernon councillor and former Mayor Akbal Mund, who had many dealings with Gareb over the years. “He was a great guy. I really liked him. His death leaves a major empty portion in the city because he did a lot for a lot of people.”
Vernon’s Kalamalka Rotary Club presented Gareb with the club’s Vocational Award in 2015 for his commitment to the community and tireless efforts to make Vernon and the Schubert Centre a better place.
When Interior Health discontinued Meals On Wheels, it was Gareb who stepped forward and took on the continuation of a vital service.
He also helped manage a volunteer soup kitchen out of the All Saints Anglican Church and was a supporter of the Vernon Public Art Gallery, O’Keefe Ranch, Habitat For Humanity and Vernon Winter Carnival.
“Jack was an outstanding human being,” said Deb White, Vernon Winter Carnival chairperson. “I’ve never met anyone quite like him. He had the biggest heart of gold and he’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was always willing to give and he will be dearly missed.”
Gareb was presented with Winter Carnival’s highest volunteer honour, the Order of Jopo, in 2016.
Earlier this year, Gareb threw his support behind a new program in Greater Vernon, Cycling Without Age, which offers free bike rides in a specially made trishaw to seniors and shut-ins. The program is operated by Lauren Lypchuk and her husband, Ward Strong. Gareb was taken for one of the inaugural rides around the Schubert Centre.
Lypchuk was deeply saddened by news of Gareb’s passing.
“Jack was the first person I approached in seeking support and guidance for bringing Cycling Without Age to Vernon and Coldstream,” said Lypchuk. “He was an ardent supporter of the program from Day 1 and was the reason why Schubert Centre Society became the program’s sponsor. He was encouraging and helpful to me and helped form the ties with Schubert Centre’s board members, staff and volunteer members and much more logistically, administratively, and operationally that is required to allow such a program to exist.
“CWA would not be available to Vernon and Coldstream residents except for this ongoing support from Jack and the Schubert Centre Society. Jack has helped to build a better Vernon for seniors and numerous others in many ways including through support of the CWA program. I met with Jack just over a week ago. I thanked him then and now thank him again for his kindness and generosity of spirit. I will be forever grateful. Our condolences and thoughts go out to Cheryl – Jack’s wife – and to all of Jack’s family members. We will miss him.”
Dates are still being finalized but Gareb’s family has said a service will be held at St. James Catholic Church, and a celebration of Gareb’s life will take place at the Schubert Centre.
The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Gareb’s memory to the Schubert Centre.