An outpouring of grief and respect has swept through Squamish for Terrill Patterson, who was regarded by many as a local icon for his quirky appearance, sharp wit, and status as a provocateur in local politics.
He died April 24.
Patterson, 76, was a well-known political pundit and eccentric character, spotted daily for years riding his bike from one end of town to another, collecting bottles, decked out in his safety vest, with his battered homemade square-brimmed red helmet atop his head.
“Terrill was an avid cyclist, recycler and political watchdog. He did his research, spoke his mind and lived life on his terms," said Bianca Peters, Squamish Historical Society president, who also called him a friend and posted dozens of photos of him over the years to social media.
"His contribution to our community and his friendship will be missed. We look forward to supporting initiatives to memorialize him and his legacy in our community. Our condolences to his family and many, many friends.”
In the days since his death, social media pages have filled with memories of shared encounters with him and admiration of his passion for local politics.
A well-known political pundit, Patterson sat as a District of Squamish alderman under then-mayor Egon Tobus from November 1985 to December 1987.
He ran for council unsuccessfully several other times, most recently in 2018.
Patterson was often at the back of council meetings as a civilian with a thick binder of policy in his lap. Routinely, he would voice his displeasure with how council (or the school board) voted and was always up to date on local events.
Mayor Karen Elliott met him during the 2014 election campaign.
“Terrill had brought a ship as a prop and had an elaborate speech about the ship going down. Little did I know then of his history on council, his commitment to democracy, and his ability to be a watchdog and keep track of local council. He knew so much and had strong opinions which he so often blended with his unique sense of humour," she said in a District news release in hounor his death.
Former Squamish mayor and councillor Patricia Heintzman recalled meeting him before her days in politics, back in January of 1993, when she first came to work at The Squamish Chief as a reporter.
Her new coworkers had told her about him, in particular that he could be found at any public gathering where food was offered.
"As a reporter, Terrill was golden; he knew it and loved his role of agitator and was fully aware of his ability to influence and provoke. Every time he showed up to council with a plastic bag full of props that we all knew would be ridiculous and creative, I would start giggling and smiling even before he started his show. He was such an irritant to council in the late 1990s that he was banned for a while by the council of the day from chambers," she said in an email to The Chief.
Heintzman said that while he spoke with authority on many issues, Patterson could cross the line at times.
"Deep down, he wanted to be a provocateur and purposefully said things to agitate a response. I can relate," she said.
"Yet even when I knew he was way off the mark, there was usually some nugget of relevance or insight that helped in my deliberations both as a citizen and an elected official. And as with everyone, when I agreed with Terrill it was great, and when I disagreed, it was at least often funny."
Former Squamish councillor Susan Chapelle ran against Patterson for several council seats and met with him often once in power, she said.
"I relied on him to remind me that often policy deficits lie beneath poor outcomes. He sat at the back of council for the majority of my years on city council," she said in a Facebook post. "He was a savant in his knowledge of municipal bylaws and budgets."
Other locals shared small snippets from their decades of knowing the man.
“I’ve watched Terrill at work and talked to him for about 35 years.” said Julie Roberts on Facebook.
“When I was young I failed to understand his perspective. As I aged I started to understand his sense of civic duty. He was a person that loved this town, but he never suffered fools on council. He schooled many polished fools. My heart wishes him a safe journey.”
To read many more memories from those who knew Patterson, go to the In Memory of Terrill Patterson Facebook page.