I wonder if Oscar, Oprah, Ozzie and Olga will notice that the man in the wheelchair with the camera is no longer visiting. I wonder if those magnificent ospreys who return every spring to rebuild their nests at The Dunes at Westsyde Golf Course will feel something is missing.
I know I will. I know I do.
Gordon Gore died on Remembrance Day. The 82-year-old was a legend in Kamloops, having founded the Big Little Science Centre and taught countless kids that science can be magical, not mere drudgery.
In his retirement, as he lived at The Hamlets in Westsyde, Gore amped up his photography skills, sending me numerous shots — mostly of wildlife, but also of other subjects — all impressive and some jaw-dropping magnificent.
A family of owls and a big, fat moon sitting atop Strawberry Hill come to mind. He also sent me photos he took in 1986 of the Royal visit to Kamloops by Charles and Diana. And, he could also be a photojournalist, sending me a photo of a broken window at the government liquor store across from The Hamlets, the result of a burglary.
“Unofficially, at least one person was caught, but I’ll leave the details to the police or the manager of the store,” my reporter on the scene imparted before adding, “That is one expensive window they broke!”
I only met Gore in person a time or two more than a decade ago, when my kids were still kids and we would often visit the science centre. He would not have remembered those meetings, but I do — clearly. When he approached my son to show him the finer points of a science experiment, Gore was the giddy one.
In recent years, we connected by email, mostly Gore sending me those fantastic photos and me asking a question or two about how they were taken and how he was doing.
Occasionally, Gore would fire off an email in response to something I had written in my regular column.
After I had penned a column decrying the semester system and calling for year-round school because we no longer needed the lads and lasses to bring in the harvest, Gore was quick to email me and concur. He said he had long called for similar changes while teaching (his passion was for the Copernican system of class scheduling; mine was for year-round subjects, but we both agreed the current semester system is nasty), but could never get through to the powers-that-be.
He was also an amateur editorial cartoonist who shared my loathing of U.S. President Donald Trump, as can be seen in the accompanying sketch by Gore.
When the pandemic arrived, among those hardest hit were and are residents in long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities — people like Gore. The decision by health and government officials to shield seniors from the novel coronavirus was to separate them from their families and not allow visitors. Only recently were those rules relaxed, but not by much.
While the reason for the lockdown was understandable from a health perspective, there have been many stories testifying to the lockdown’s severe impact on the mental and emotional health of those mother and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers denied the luxury of touching a loved one.
The novel coronavirus is dangerous, especially to the elderly and people not in great health.
But isolation is also dangerous, which is something Gore knew personally.
On June 20, about three months into the pandemic/lockdown, Gore emailed me a letter he wanted to send to the health authorities, pleading with them to ease the restrictions so he could at least power up his wheelchair and visit his osprey friends.
“All I want to do is go for a ride in the fresh air with my camera and share photos of what the real world outside this building is like with other residents who are unable to experience what I can see with my camera,” Gore said in his letter. “I appreciate your efforts to save me from the virus, but loneliness, lack of purpose and boredom kill, too. Please let us have a life.”
I was happy to hear that, later in the summer, Gore was indeed able to roll out of the doors at The Hamlets and to The Dunes and points in between, documenting life in Westsyde. But, as he noted, it still wasn’t the same.
Gordon Gore was not a young man when he died — he and my dad were born in the same year, 1937, with Gore surviving eight years longer — and death is, of course, natural. I just hope getting out with his beloved camera in the past couple of months helped somewhat with the loneliness and boredom the pandemic wrought.
I am certain his birds will fly a little freer today, in honour of the man who detested being caged.