Monday, January 31, 2005

So long, neighbour

The elections in Iraq are the only story today, and rightfully so. Bravo to everyone who went to vote, especially in the areas where there was a lot of violence and intimidation. You're on your way to a culture where these words of Robert Fisk:
Many Iraqis do not know the names of the candidates, let alone their policies.

will apply to even municipal and school board elections - just like here!

Anyway, since I don't want to pick at any other issues today, I thought I'd talk about my old neighbourhood. From age 4 in 1977, to my 17th birthday in 1990, I lived in a "development" called Bearspaw Meadows just west of Calgary. It was unique kind of neighbourhood - there were 20 two-acre lots around the crescent, and the crescent was about 1km from the next house, so there was a definite little community there.

I put "development" in quote marks because I don't think there were any zoning restrictions at all - the 20 houses were each entirely different. Plus, there was no water or sewer service, just wells and septic tanks.

I realize this sounds like it could be the beginning of some kind of sob story - not in the slightest. This community was a testament to the entrepreneurial ethic of Calgary, populated by people who were, on average, pretty well off. The reason I'm bringing this up now is that old neighbours, twice this month, have been on the front page of the Calgary Herald.

First of all, the Calgary Stampeders were sold to a group of 12 businessmen led by a guy named Ted Hellard (4 houses over). More people were familiar with the names Doug Mitchell, John Forzani, and Dave Sapunjis, but as the linked story notes, there's no doubt who the driving force was. (Hellard founded Critical Mass, a web-design firm, in 1995; he's still chairman, but he sold it a couple for years ago for something like $35M. Check out their list of clients. What tech bubble was that, again?)

These guys bought the team from American Michael Feterik, who incredibly had bought it from another guy in my neighbourhood, Sig Gutsche (across the street, 1 house over).

Despite the big Stamps buy, unfortunately the bad news outweighed the good in the old neighbourhood this month, as Hugh & Helen Hincks (next door) were killed in an avalanche in Austria 2 weeks ago.

If tragedies are something you rank on a scale, I suppose this would be low (which tells me it's not right to rank tragedies on a scale). The Hincks were semi-retired, and on a skiing vacation in the Austrian Alps. The kids are adults (23, 20, & 18) and have been left with enough money to start a memorial fund for their parents. Their devastation is tough to compare to millions of people's lives ended or turned upside down by a tsunami.

But it makes me sad. You see this all the time in obituaries, but Hugh honestly was possibly the nicest guy I ever met, and Helen was close behind. They would have made a really positive difference over the next 25 years - not just to their kids, but to civilization.

Ave atque vale, Mr. & Mrs. Hincks. And Morgan, Teddy, and Daniel - my thoughts are with you.

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