Gordon Gore joked with friends and families in the last weeks of his life that he wanted to see two things before he died — U.S. President Donald Trump defeated in the election south of the border last week and Rory McIlroy in a green jacket, crowned Masters champion this weekend.
He got one of them.
The longtime educator and author, perhaps known best as founder of the Big Little Science Centre, died on Wednesday, Nov. 11, six days short of his 83rd birthday.
Gore taught science at high schools in the Lower Mainland, the Fraser Valley and Kamloops before retiring in 1990 to train educators at what was then the University College of the Cariboo.
“He’s obviously an amazing person — a genius,” daughter Susanne Gore-Flukinger told KTW.
“He just poured his life into what he was passionate about, which was science, photography and inspiring people to learn. He wasn’t just a teacher because it was his job — it was who he was inside.”
Born in Toronto, Gore grew up in Quebec and studied at McGill before heading west to Vancouver to further his education at the University of B.C. While teaching, Gore would visit other schools to help science teachers improve their methods and engage students.
Now president of the Big Little Science Centre, Jim Hebden first met Gore during one of those sessions. He was teaching at Kam High at the time and Gore came to put on a hands-on demonstration.
“It was because of his influence that I started infusing more and more demos into my chem lessons,” Hebden said. “In many ways, Gordie truly was larger than life and was unwavering in his determination to create a place that was hands-on to its core.”
Gord Stewart had a front-row seat for Gore’s enthusiasm when it came to science.
Stewart, executive director of the Big Little Science Centre, said it started with his job interview in 2005 — the first time he met Gore. He said part of the interview included Gore engaging with a class of students.
“It became very clear,” Stewart said. “He was a driven guy and I could see that right away. He had an ability to show people science is a thing you do, not a thing you read about.”
Though Gore stepped back from his role at the centre about five years ago, Stewart said he remained involved in the facility’s business until the very end.
“He was still involved last week,” Stewart said. “I talked to him on Friday and we were talking about the centre.”
Gore’s lifelong drive to help people embrace science will be recognized at the Big Little Science Centre, Stewart said, which will soon rename its main feature the Gordon R. Gore Exploration Room.
“We actually had that in the works already to name the exploration room after him,” Stewart said. “It was going to be ready in a couple of weeks. But I got to tell him about it.”
Stewart said Gore was also able to get a first-hand look at the Big Little Science Centre’s new downtown digs in the former Value Village building, which has slowly opened in recent weeks to limited capacities.
“He got to come in about two or three weeks ago and see the completed building,” Stewart said. “He saw the whole thing. He liked it. He was happy. He could see where we were going and he liked it.”
Gore-Flukinger said her father was lonely in the final months of his life, given precautions in place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that limited social interactions for long-term care home residents. Gore lived at The Hamlets in Westsyde.
But he was able to visit many of those closest to him in the last weeks of his life.
“When he couldn’t go anywhere, his purpose was taken away from him — which at that time was getting out and photographing the osprey at The Dunes,” she said. “I asked him whether he thought COVID had hastened things and he said he didn’t know. But he certainly lost so much weight. It did make some of his last months so lonely, but did it speed up the course of it? I don’t know.”
Gore-Flukinger said her dad’s trademark sense of humour was fully intact right up to the end.
“Even when it was hard for him to breathe and he had trouble talking, he was still making jokes and puns,” she said.
If not for COVID-19, thousands of people would be gathering somewhere at some point in the coming days or weeks to remember Gore and his contributions to the community.
Gore-Flukinger said she knows that memorial will happen, but that it’s a matter of time.
“It really is too bad,” she said. “We’ve had hundreds of messages from people about how he’s impacted their lives and inspired their love of science. But they will do it at some point — they will have that celebration and we will all join in and enjoy his favourite science displays.”