Late Squamish resident Mike Racicot — better known as Treehouse Mike — would have turned 40 this week.
The beloved BASE jumper died at 37 on July 26, 2018, during a wingsuit flight in Switzerland.
His sister Rachel Polite had planned to be in Squamish to honour his birthday this year, to go up the Stawamus Chief — a mountain he'd personally jumped 502 times — with some of his BASE friends, but with COVID-19 that couldn't happen.
But the way she and her family did celebrate her brother was certainly special.
Polite and family cut a ribbon at the naming of a skatepark in Barrhaven, a neighborhood of Ottawa where she and Racicot grew up, and where he was known as “Skater Mike."
In the corridor, he was known for living in a treehouse for a time.
The idea for the "Treehouse Mike Skatepark" came to Polite a few months ago when she was missing him most.
"The thought popped into my head out of nowhere — that the skatepark in Barrhaven should be named after him," she recalled. "He was a big skateboarder kid when he was young. If I were to see some skater kids I would ask them if they knew Mike from Barrhaven and they would say, 'Skater Mike!'"
The process with the City of Ottawa went smoother than Polite could have imagined and soon the date was set for the day before Racicot's 40th birthday, Aug. 26.
It was full circle, in that as a teen — back when the community was nicknamed 'Farhaven' because it was seen as so far from the big city — Racicot had petitioned council for a proper skatepark.
"He made it happen. At the time, it was just a couple of cement barriers done in a big square," Polite recalled. "Eventually they put up a few ramps and stuff... he was always there."
Racicot took to teaching the younger kids how to skate over the years.
Since he left at 22 — to travel by motorized scooter to first Whistler and later Squamish — the skatepark was remade in a new location in Barrhaven.
"It is really, really nice," Polite said.
The night before the dedication of the park this week, Polite said she was anxious that she wouldn't be able to get through the emotional speech about her brother she planned to give, but once again, her brother was with her, she said.
"Somehow when I got there, my nerves disappeared. I tried to picture that Mike was holding my shoulders standing behind me," she said.
She says her brother would be "stoked" to see the park in his name.
"For our family, it is a place of peace," she said, adding that this is particularly true for herself.
"I have felt like it has become my life's mission to keep his memory alive, every single day, and that can be exhausting. It just feels like now this is a place that is going to outlive me and now I can have a little bit of peace knowing that his name is going to go on beyond me. That, for me, feels almost like a job is done for me, in a way."
Polite also had keychains with her brother as a kid skateboarding on one side and the park sign on the other made, which she sold, raising $2,000 for Squamish Search and Rescue.
A donation she knows her brother would have been happy about.
She is also in the process of having a memorial bench to her brother placed in Squamish. She hopes it can be located to look up at the Stawamus Chief, which brought him so much happiness.
"He was the real deal. He was the coolest person I have ever, ever come into contact with in my entire life and I know I will never meet anyone cooler than my brother was," she said.
In a letter he wrote in case he were to die doing what he loved, Racicot said:
“If I can leave one final message it would be to go and live out one of your dreams today! It doesn’t have to be crazy or insane. I’m talking to you to do that thing you’ve always wanted to, but have been making excuses why not to. Please try it and then maybe another one. It feels so good. That is what I loved most in life...living the dream.”