Gail (Margaret) and Merrill (Harvey) Ross, long-time residents of Squamish, died from complications related to COVID-19 within 17 hours of each other.
Merrill drove logging trucks, highway trucks, and gravel trucks and was beloved in forestry, trucking, and construction circles in town, and beyond.
Gail was a fixture in Squamish and would drive with Merrill when she could.
Thus, fellow trucker Darren Doak, who owns JR Transport, has organized a memorial truck convoy and air horn tribute to the pair set for May 29.
The couple was married for 54 years.
They moved to Squamish in 1969, raising their four kids in town: Craig, Alan, Scott, and Leanne.
"He started driving trucks when he was 15 years old. He was driving brick trucks, delivering bricks in PEI. He was a farm boy, but that was in his blood — driving trucks," said Scott.
He met some guys from the B.C. coast and eventually headed west.
When the pair moved to Squamish in 1969, the community had a population of a few thousand people and was very tight-knit.
"The way we were taught, and the way we were raised in Squamish — you are raised in a logging town, you are raised to work hard and respect one another," Scott said.
His strongest childhood memories of his dad are driving in logging trucks with him.
"Waiting by the side of the highway for my dad to come by in the logging truck and pick me up on his second trip, going up to Pemberton," he said. "Some days, he would do three trips to Pemberton and back hauling logs, which are insanely long days."
Gail was the ultimate Squamish team mom.
"She would be down at Brennan Park watching soccer, coaching soccer. It got to the point that even when her kids weren't playing soccer, she would go down to the field just to watch and cheer kids on," Scott said.
"To her last day, it was all about sports. She loved youth sports. She loved supporting it and being a part of it. We didn't grow up with a lot of money, but we grew up with everything we needed, and my parents worked really hard to give us that. We got to play every sport."
Scott says when his parents were in hospital and able to communicate, they worried over the other more than about themselves.
"My mom would be asking how my dad was, even though my mom was in terrible shape. And my dad was in rough shape and he was: 'How is your mother? How is your mother?' They were only worried about each other."
Scott said that a little bit of peace those left behind have comes from the fact one didn't leave the other behind.
"We couldn't imagine how we could tell one about the other," he said.
"They are not going to have the heartache of losing one or the other."
The couple died one after the other on May 5 and 6.
They were then transported together from Lions Gate Hospital to the funeral home in Squamish; a final act of togetherness that Scott said was moving.
The memorial truck convoy in honour of the couple, slated for Saturday, May 29, will include primarily trucks — no cars or pick-ups.
Trucks will marshall at the western Squamish dryland sort at 2 p.m.
The convoy — expected to be 50 trucks or more — will head north up to Depot Road, turn down Depot, and head south on Government Road. They will then move on to Highway 99 and head back to the dryland sort.
Merrill's gravel truck — put onto a flatbed truck — will lead the convoy.
Locals can watch for the convoy along the route.
The convoy will end up back at the dryland sort, where there will be a 30-second airhorn finale.
In the dryland sort, all the trucks will make rows and face Merrill's truck.
"We will shut all engines off and blast continuously for 30 seconds... It should rattle the Chief," Doak said.
Doak says Merrill and his dad, Jim, were long-time friends until Jim died in 2000.
Doak and Merrill became a lot closer over the last 14 years, he said.
For the last four years, Merrill had been parking his truck on Doak's property. During that time, they saw each other daily, he said.
He describes the man as an extremely hard worker who had logging and trucking in his blood.
"It is like sawdust. Once sawdust is in your blood, you can't get rid of it," he said. "It will always be with you."
Scott stressed his family couldn't thank Doak enough for what he has done to pull the memorial together.
His parents were humble people who would have been uncomfortable with the fuss, Scott said, but this is a beautiful way to help the many who loved and respected them say good-bye to the pair during a time when a gathering is not possible due to the pandemic.
"We are really all taken aback by Darren's efforts and everything he has done for us, to make this happen."
Scott said the memorial is also a reminder of the Squamish that built the town that exists today.
Many of the forestry families are still here, he said.
"The way Squamish is growing so fast, people are losing perspective a little bit. Squamish is a logging town. It was a great logging town as a kid. It was a great place to be raised," he said.
Doak said the fact the Squamish couple died of COVID is hard to process.
This isn't the way the pair's story should have ended, he said.
"It opened the eyes to a lot of people. You read about this, you hear about this — more than one person dying of this in a family — but to see it right here at home, right here?"
Scott said he gets frustrated with the anti-mask and anti-restriction rallies and rhetoric.
"I wish people would just be a little more thoughtful," Scott said.
"My parents died from COVID-19. They were both infected with COVID, and they both died from the complications of COVID," he added. "My dad was working a week up until this all happened. My dad was healthy. I mean, my dad was 76, and my mom was 73. Did they have health issues? Yes, 100%. With COVID, it didn't allow them to recover."
For more information on the memorial truck rally, email Doak at: firstname.lastname@example.org.