To say Murray Dee led a charmed life is an understatement in many ways and it was all due to his ability to truly appreciate and recognize all the good things in his life. He cared about people, he was passionate about his job, he embraced every opportunity to have fun and he never took himself too seriously.
"He was just being Murray," says Rick Perolli, who has been friends with Dee for more than 22 years. "He was literally the sweetest, nicest guy on the face of the planet. When he talked to you he wanted to know if you were enjoying life, he wanted his friends to do what they wanted to, and to be happy and healthy. He always kept it simple and fun, while making sure everyone around him was good.
"He was fortunate, and I think he knew that. He knew how good his life was. He really got it."
Dee, 49, was killed on Sept. 8 after being struck by a northbound vehicle on Mons Road while riding his bike. He was exiting a section of Valley Trail by the campground and according to reports he may have looked in the wrong direction. The RCMP and coroner's office are investigating but it's being treated as an unfortunate accident.
He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Karen Laughland, as well as members of the Dee and Laughland families.
Dee was born in Montreal but moved with his family to West Vancouver at a young age. He was an only child and was very close to his parents who passed away in recent years. He never had children of his own.
Dee had a lot of close friendships going back to his childhood and high school, as well as through his chosen career as a ski school instructor. He moved to Whistler shortly after high school to live out his dreams.
Life was an adventure for Dee, says Perolli, something that prompted him to take up snowboarding and skateboarding later in life.
"He was curious about things and liked to figure out things for himself," he said. "He recently got into gardening, growing fresh vegetables and things in his garden, and he would have us over to eat them."
Murray was a bike guide at one point in his life, and about 10 years ago had gotten back into riding as a means to see Europe and travel. Dee worked all winter as an instructor, but spent a few weeks or months each spring travelling around the world with wife Karen. They traveled extensively in Europe, but also made trips to Asia and exotic destinations like China and Vietnam.
While Murray Dee may have lived the carefree life of a ski bum he was anything but, dedicating close to 30 years of his life to teaching others and sharing his love of the sport - or sports, as he was a rare instructor who taught both skiing and snowboarding.
Regularly given the chance for promotion during his 23 years with Whistler Blackcomb (he worked at other resorts full or part-time for about six years), Dee always politely stood aside, preferring to spend time his time outside teaching rather than in an office.
Bart Barczynski, general manager of adult ski and snowboard school, met Dee almost as soon as he started to teach skiing in Whistler 14 years ago. Even after all that time he was still in awe of Dee's commitment and enthusiasm.
"He was a purist, and what I mean by that is that he really loved to teach skiing," he said. "He was just as happy to take people out on the bunny slopes to teach them skiing and snowboarding as he was to take people into the alpine and he was a very good skier. His specialty was working with groups but he had a lot of good private clientele that would request him year after year.
"Everybody loved the guy. He was salt of the earth, the guests loved him, his fellow co-workers loved him. I'm getting e-mails from past ski instructors from all over the world to offer their condolences.
"It's really tough to even think of him not being there in the locker room this year."
Friends and family are hosting a celebration of Dee's life on Oct. 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Roundhouse Lodge. Uploading starts at 1 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, friends and family are being asked to donate to Zero Ceiling (www.zeroceiling.org) in Dee's honour, or the Vancouver Food Bank (www.foodbank.bc.ca).
Whistler Blackcomb ski school and friends are also looking at creating some kind of permanent tribute to Dee on the mountains.
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