Mary Gazetas, a passionate activist, a writer, an avid advocate for the arts and co-founder of the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project, died Tuesday morning after a six-week illness. Gazetas was 68.
"She's given us an extraordinary birthright _ Mom taught us about what being part of a community is all about," said her eldest Michael Gazetas. "Everyone talks about sustainability and having vision, but my mom put it in concrete contributions."
He said he will miss his mother's zest for life.
"I think mom will be remembered for what is possible _ to create positive change with even the smallest group of dedicated people. We have to remember it was her and six grandmothers who started the Richmond Sharing Farm. It all came because my mom knew it was possible."
Gazetas leaves behind her husband, Aristides, son Michael, daughters Sophie Peerless and Calliope Gazetas, in-laws and two grandchildren. She also leaves to mourn a legion of friends, colleagues and others who have been touched by her generosity and kindness.
"We are all in shock," said longtime friend Arzeena Hamir, coordinator at the Richmond Food Security Society. "She was such a giving person and she did so much for the community. She was a doer and she loved every minute of what she did."
A private service will be held for family and close friends on Saturday, April 21, 11 a.m. at the Chinese Bunkhouse at Britannia Heritage Shipyard.
Laughter was his teaching tool
Archie Whalen, a one-of-a-kind educator, died Friday afternoon, April 13, after suffering from a heart attack. He was 62.
Whalen, who retired from Westwind elementary in 2005, was known for his pranks and outrageously funny costumes.
For St. Patrick Day, Whalen dressed in green and wore patio furniture; for Valentine's Day he came to school dressed as Cupid, complete with pink tutu, tights and wings. One Halloween he came as Winnie the Witch, and then for his 25th anniversary as a teacher he dressed in a tuxedo, silver lame and top hat. But beneath the silliness was a profound commitment to education. Whalen believed kids only learn in class when they want to be in class, "and I want students, not prisoners," he was known to say.
Woodward's elementary teacher Ted Lim was a longtime friend.
"He was an awesome, awesome, innovative educator; there were things he did that no one else had done," said Lim. "I will miss his spirit and how he loved to make kids laugh."
In May 2004, Whalen was named Richmond's Teacher of the Year. He taught Grades 1 and 2 at the school and taught primary-aged children for more than 35 years
At the time of his death, he was teaching at Vancouver's St. John's School, an independent school.
Westwind teacher Patti Fluker will always remember Whalen as "a force. He brought life into the school, he was great at a party. I'll remember his largeness_he was a wonderful compact nuclear reactor.
"When students came in his classroom with new shoes, Archie would play the piano and sing about new shoes and dance around the class _ every child in his class was made to feel special."
Westwind principal, Larry Hurst, said that although he never worked with Whalen, he knew him and heard many stories.
"He was an amazingly creative and enthusiastic teacher who brought passion and love of learning that was unparalleled," Hurst said. "All the children wanted to be in Mr. Whalen's class.
Whalen leaves behind to mourn hundreds of past and present students, colleagues and friends as well as a sister and nephews. Plans are still underway for a celebration of life, tentatively set for April 29th. The News will post the details next week.