The outpouring of condolences, tributes and stories that followed the tragic injury and, nine days later, death of Sarah Burke is commensurate with the many lives she touched in her 29 years. She played a pivotal role in getting women's freeskiing events into the X Games and the Olympics, but she was equally passionate about teaching others. What stood out for everyone she came in contact with was the care she showed for others.
"She did a lot of amazing sports feats and changed her sport and got it into the Olympics and did all kinds of tricks first, but the really outstanding thing about her as a person was just who she was," said fellow freeskiing pioneer Mike Douglas. "She was gracious and humble and polite, and just everything you hope your daughter will be."
Burke fell while training for a sponsor's event at Park City, Utah on Jan. 10 last year. Although it wasn't a violent crash, she ruptured a vertebral artery and went into cardiac arrest and coma. She never awoke from the coma and passed away on Jan. 19.
Originally from Midland, Ontario, Burke started coming to Whistler to train at John Smart's Momentum Ski Camps as a 14 year old. Though she lived in Whistler, and California she finally settled in Squamish. She never left the Momentum camps where she coached as well.
"She never missed a year with us," said Smart.
It was at camp, as much as on the freeski circuit, that Sarah touched people.
"It didn't matter what she did or what she won, she was always incredibly rooted and humble," said Smart. "It always blew the minds of all the people who put her on a pedestal, and they would come to camp and Sarah would be sitting on the snow with them and talking to them. I remember one adult camper who was just trying to learn to slide rails and Sarah had just won X Games gold — but she stayed with him all day until he figured out how to nail this little four-foot rail, and I think she was more excited when he nailed it than he was. She was so real, so genuine with people.
"Her memory needs to stay alive because of who she was, and people need to know her story because we need more people like her," said Smart. "Her positivity was unbelievable. It didn't matter when or where, she had it all the time."
Florence Petersen made a promise to Myrtle Philip to keep Whistler's early history alive. But she promised, and delivered, much more than that.
The Whistler Museum and Archives Society is the manifestation of Florence's commitment to Whistler's first lady. Whistler's history — a cross-section that includes the pioneer years of Rainbow Lodge, the logging companies, the Olympic bids and the ski era — is well represented in the museum. But Florence's contribution to the history of the Whistler valley also includes several books. The last, First Tracks: Whistler's Early History, was published by the museum posthumously.
A member of the first Canadian women's field hockey team, Florence became a physical education teacher in Burnaby. She and four of her colleagues bought a cabin on Alta Lake in the 1950s and dubbed it "Witsend." Weekends and summers were spent at Alta Lake until Florence retired in 1983 and joined her husband, Andy, as a full-time Whistler resident. Those summers included many adventures, like the hike and culinary disaster that spawned the Burnt Stew name for a bowl on Whistler Mountain.
Florence was known to many as Whistler's marriage commissioner, presiding over more than 1,000 marriages, some in locations as diverse as mountain tops and bungee jump bridges. She was awarded the Freedom of the Municipality of Whistler in the spring of 2012, four months before she passed away at the age of 83.
Dave Cathers came to Whistler in 1972, drawn by a love of skiing and the mountains. When a fatal avalanche on Whistler Mountain that winter exposed the community's inability to perform backcountry searches, Dave and a handful of others formed Whistler Search and Rescue in 1973. In the 40 years since then Whistler SAR has rescued innumerable people and saved an untold numbers of lives.
That's a tremendous legacy in itself, but it was Dave's direction that led Whistler SAR to emphasize teamwork and high-level alpine skills, traits that set the Whistler Search and Rescue team apart.
Dave was deeply involved in the Whistler community as a coach, heli-ski guide, an owner of a construction company, a volunteer firefighter and member of the Whistler Health Care Centre planning committee. His efforts were recognized with a Citizen of the Year award.
Dave passed away Sept. 1, 2012 at the age of 66 from multiple myeloma.
ART DEN DUYF
When Art Den Duyf disagreed with someone, they knew it. But as public as some of his opinions were, his generosity was a private matter.
"He looked after people who were short of money, and nobody really knows about that side of him," said Peter Alder.
Art emigrated from Holland with his family in 1954. They moved to Whistler in 1978 and established the Sabre group of companies. Their involvement in excavation and construction included breaking ground for Whistler Village.
"He was very generous supporting the families of his workers and making sure they were taken care of," said Alder. "He never wanted to take credit for it, but it was unbelievable how much good he did behind the scenes."
His philanthropic efforts included donations of land for community projects, including his church.
Diagnosed with cancer in February, Art declined chemotherapy and passed away at home on Sept. 1, 2012 at the age of 77.
Like so many, a passion for skiing diverted Glen Lynskey from his expected career and brought him to Whistler.
Born and raised in Toronto, Glen was identified early on as intellectually gifted. He completed a degree in history at the University of Toronto before moving to Whistler in 1971. Tree planting and construction provided income for the first winters spent skiing but gradually construction became his passion. Building houses that incorporated new materials and techniques provided the outlet for his creativity and intellect. His Alta Lake Lumber Company often custom milled wood for houses Glen built.
But beyond his skills as a builder his generosity to others stood out. Glen was frequently a mentor to younger people getting into the construction business and was well respected by other builders.
Glen died Oct. 7, 2012 from complications following a cycling accident. He was 61.
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