BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Community reaches out

Columnist Richard Rolke touches on how the public is reacting to Patrick Nicol's death

No one should be surprised by the outpouring of emotion over Patrick Nicol’s passing.

You can reflect on his 22 years as city councillor or his domination of local airwaves for decades. But more importantly, he was an outgoing and compassionate person. He genuinely cared about those he came in contact with, and especially those that struggled to find a voice.

One just has to look at the dozens of comments on The Morning Star website to understand the profound influence he had on so many people.

One person wrote, “When the student is ready, the teachers appear. Patrick Nicol appeared in my life in my early 20s when I didn’t believe in myself nor had any direction, focus or purpose. I would leave his office and would say to myself, ‘Wow, I deeply desire to be like that someday in my life where I can have that kind of self confidence and impact on people’s lives.’”

Another stated, “I remember him sticking up for me with an issue I brought forward to the council, he helped make my words stronger.”

There were times when I would be down on myself, wondering if I was making the right life choices or worried about my future in an uncertain industry. But, after talking to Patrick, even if just for a few minutes, I was left sitting on top of the world.

He would assure me that I have something significant to contribute to the community and that in my own way, I was making a difference.

Even when he was quite ill or experiencing his own personal challenges, Patrick didn’t turn away from those who needed a boost of confidence.

At a time when cynicism towards politicians and business leaders is epidemic, what’s happening here in Vernon may seem shocking. But the national pundits and analysts never met Patrick.

Phones have been ringing steady at city hall as citizens seek a way to reach out. Everywhere I went this weekend, people stopped me and wanted to talk about Patrick. They all had a story to share.

For many people, Patrick went beyond being just a civic leader. He was more like a favourite uncle, a close confidant, a brother or a friend.

Not surprisingly, a grassroots effort is developing to ensure Patrick’s legacy isn’t forgotten.

Within a day of his death, some were suggesting on social media that a road be named in his honour.

Others, though, are considering other alternatives given Patrick’s passion for sports and all things recreation. One concept that comes to mind is a park.

Another possibility could be placing his name on the sports complex currently under construction next to Okanagan College.

There will be those who say the facility is in Coldstream and not owned by the city. But keep in mind that Patrick was a champion for the facility and he was a true advocate for the entire region and communities working together.

While the details are yet to be worked out, I am confident there will ultimately be a permanent memorial to Patrick and his community contributions.

But if you really want to provide a lasting tribute, remember that Patrick would want all of us to be more compassionate and open to others, no matter their walk in life. He would want us to enjoy the simple things, whether it is the crack of a baseball bat at Lakeview Park or quail darting through your yard.

For Patrick, life was too important to take for granted.

Farewell my friend.