February 28, 2015 - 11:31 AM
VULCAN, Alta. - The tiny town of Vulcan, Alta., virtually tripled in size the day that actor Leonard Nimoy detoured from a comic book convention in 2010 to visit the community that has cosmically connected itself to his Star Trek character, Mr. Spock.
And so it was fond memories of the man, and his humanity, that prompted feelings of personal loss in residents upon learning of his death on Friday, at age 83.
"We're all grieving," said Shannon Clarke, with the Vulcan Tourism and Trek Station, recalling Nimoy's springtime visit five years ago. "He made our town feel really important.
"He just captured all of our hearts. Genuinely, a wonderful man."
A collective sadness rippled through the town of fewer than 2,000 people, southeast of Calgary, that shares the name of Spock's home planet in the ground-breaking TV series.
Residents amassed emails, phone calls and Facebook posts conveying condolences from around the globe, prompting contemplation about his legacy.
"He was quite a gentleman," said Mason Dodds, a professional photographer who snapped pictures of the massive turnout of costumed fans.
He recalled Nimoy's speech and witnessing the unveiling of a bronze bust, describing a man who beamed star-power over the entire town.
"You don't get a crowd of this size and have that many people show up and that not have an impact on you," he said. "For one guy to come here for two hours and have that kind of response..."
Star Trek tributes are commonplace throughout Vulcan, from a mural painted along a lengthy brickwall to the Starfleet insignia emblazoning several sidewalks.
The postmaster cancels outgoing mail with a stamp of the Starship Enterprise, while Star Trek-themed hotel rooms are booked solid during an annual Spock Days Festival.
Nimoy took it upon himself to assist the town gain official licensing with CBS to be named the Star Trek Capital of Canada, said Clarke.
He also ensured four busloads of resident fans were whisked to preview a new Star Trek film in Calgary — after failing in his bid to have Vulcan host the 2009 premiere — because the town doesn't have its own theatre.
Business owner Louise Christie, who's lived in Vulcan for 15 years, said Nimoy's support and advocacy was an economic boon to the community.
"Any small town in Alberta will tell you, if you can find something to get people to visit you, then you've got to find it, right? And this has just been a godsend, really.
"The man has helped to put the town on the map."
Residents agreed they aren't looking to cash in on Nimoy's death, but they expect his passing to spur a resurgence in interest that will potentially be financially lucrative.
The town is likely to host a memorial, said Clarke. She also expects a surge of visitors for an upcoming July Vul-Con expo.
But while she's hopeful the loss will again bring their community together, she said it was devastating Nimoy died only one year before the Star Trek series' 50th anniversary.
"It would have been really nice if he had held on ... so he could have been around for that," she said.
Residents said they expect an ongoing commemoration of Nimoy's life that will continue to illuminate their town.
"Mr. Nimoy's visit to us here was certainly a highlight to the community," said Dodds. "Those that got to witness it will never forget."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015