The District of Squamish is flying flags at half-mast today to commemorate the passing of a man beloved throughout the community.
District councillor and long time trails advocate Ray Peters passed away after a long battle with cancer in Squamish General Hospital early Thursday morning (March 30) at the age of 60.
A District of Squamish councillor since 2002, the 1999 Citizen of the Year award winner, enthusiastic co-organizer of the annual Squamish Triathlon - a memorial to his good friend Bob McIntosh - and diligent trails advocate who spent thousands of hours carving out trails, most notably in the Cheekye Fan, Peters' legacy will endure for years to come, say his friends and colleagues.
"As a councillor and as a person, he had the vision for Squamish long before anyone else had a vision for Squamish," said Mayor Ian Sutherland. "He understood very early about outdoor recreation and where the community was going. I think it was Ray who dragged us all along with him. It was his vision that we are going through right now."
Peters moved to Squamish almost 10 years ago after retiring from his career as a North Vancouver firefighter. Once established in Squamish, Peters, an avid runner, worked diligently to promote outdoor recreation.
"It wasn't just that he willingly spent so much time," said Bob McIntosh Triathlon organizer Peter Hotston, who visited Peters during his last week in hospital. "He was enthusiastic for things like this, but he also wanted things to be done very well. Quality was very important to him and he had huge skills. The technical sense of solving problems, and getting equipment together and just being the technical go-to person."
Peters had suffered from an initial bout of throat cancer that was diagnosed shortly after his participation in the Boston Marathon in 2003. He recovered, but in July 2005, a persistently raspy throat indicated the return of cancer, which took the form of two tumours, one in his throat and one in his lung.
During his final days, Peters lost the ability to speak and used a pen and paper to communicate withvisitors. In his last communications, Peters mentioned the strength of his wife Ann, whom he called his rock. He also said that he was glad he was able to retire from the North Vancouver fire department at age 50 so that, in the last 10 years of his life, he was able to complete 10 marathons and accomplish his work as a councillor, a trails advocate and an indispensable volunteer for the Triathlon and the Test of Metal.
"He was at peace with what was going to happen," said Hotston.
Peters unrelentingly continued his work on trails until very shortly before his passing. His legacy is already monumental, and this will continue to be revealed as the years pass, say friends.
"Up to a couple of weeks ago Ray was out fixing trails, building trails and teaching people how to maintain trails," said Sutherland. "I don't think even now people really appreciate how much he has done for the community with his volunteerism and everything he has done with the Trails Society. It is just amazing the amount of work he put into our community. That is something we will only appreciate over time."
No plans have yet been made to permanently commemorate Peters's contributions to Squamish, but friends agree that some form of community memorial will surely be organized.
"I think that the community thinks so much of Ray that we'll find a way to honour his life and what's he's done for us in town," said friend and former co-councillor Jeff Dawson.-with files from Steven Hill