February 04, 2014 - 11:22 AM
VERNON - Filled with songs, stories and smiles, it was precisely the funeral service councillor Patrick Nicol wanted.
Last summer following an emergency trip to the hospital, Nicol—who had been battling leukemia for many years—made arrangements for his funeral from his hospital bed. He knew he might not have much time left, though for another several months, he would conceal his poor health and continue doing his job. With the help of his best friend Judi Barnard, he put his last wishes to paper.
“So nobody else had to worry about it,” Barnard told the audience during Nicol’s service Monday at Trinity United Church.
“He said, ‘You need to tell people I had a great, great life.’ And he did,” Barnard said.
Around 1,000 people attended the service, which, due to the number of attendees, had satellite locations at the Schubert Centre and Kal Tire Place. Nicol passed away January 15 at the age of 64.
Nicol served on Vernon council for 22 years, among the longest of any councillor in the province. Representing his community and making its voices heard was a privilege he held close to his heart. He worked in radio broadcast, his other passion, for 42 years. Former co-worker and forever friend Cory Kimm shared fond memories of Nicol’s generosity, his caring nature, and his love for the community.
“He wanted to make you feel welcome, like every time you turned on the radio you were walking into his house,” Kimm said.
In planning his funeral, Nicol didn’t forget about music. Several of his favourites, including Somewhere Over the Rainbow, It’s a Wonderful World, Angels Among Us and Let it Be played during the memorial. He made it clear to more than one person that he wanted the service to be a cheerful gathering, not a sad one. While there were plenty of tears shed, the tone was one of celebration for his life.
Nicol loved nature, even reserving certain plots in his garden for weeds because he “loved the honesty of nature.” He never stepped on ants or spiders, and even held a burial service in his yard for Kimm’s pet bird. His home and garden was his castle. He was a sports fanatic with a wealth of baseball trivia and loved flipping through his Sports Illustrated magazines. He enjoyed playing golf, tennis and schooling Kimm at pool.
“He was my north on the compass. He would always put me in the right direction,” Kimm said.
Nicol’s brother John said the family had a favourite description for him when he was a kid—that he was full of beans. He never did outgrow that energy.
“It’s hard to believe my brother is gone,” John said. “It was unexpected because he was such a fighter.”
Mayor Rob Sawatzky told the story of how he and Nicol first met. Sawatzky was a doctor at the time, and the one to diagnose him. When he received the results, he called Nicol and urged him to go to the hospital that same day to begin treatment.
“He refused because, and I quote, ‘I’m too busy with organizing Canada Day celebrations and I have a number of meetings and too many people are counting on me. We’ll have to arrange something in a couple of weeks,’” Sawatzky said.
Annette Sharkey, executive director for a local non-profit organization, said Nicol was a champion for the community. He spent countless hours attending meetings and learning about local issues.
“Vernon and the North Okanagan are forever changed by (Nicol’s) contribution,” Sharkey said. “(His) legacy will live on.”
Barnard, who helped Nicol write out his last wishes, remembers being sent on errands to pick up linens, flowers, food and other things on his behalf. The gifts weren’t for family or friends. They were for strangers in the community who needed help.
“He just cared about everything and everybody,” Barnard said.
One of his few personal indulgences was making his home a special place. In his last few months, Barnard would pick him up and take him shopping. She helped him redecorate his home, something they finished the day before he died.
“If we could all be half the person Patrick was, what a wonderful world this would be,” Barnard said.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
The funeral service for Patrick Nicol can be found online.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014