Friends of a long-time Whitehorse swim instructor are campaigning to have a memorial bench at the Lion’s Aquatic Centre named in her honour.
Kelly Patrick worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor in Whitehorse for almost 20 years. She died suddenly on March 6. The cause of death has not been released. She was 46 years old.
Flags flew at half-mast on Friday and an impromptu memorial has sprouted at the Canada Games Centre, where her familiar voice so often echoed.
Sarah Lewis worked with Patrick for her entire career.
“Working with her, it was a range of things. It could be really, really fun. It could be really, really frustrating. But every day you came to work and you knew at some point you would laugh,” Lewis said.
Patrick’s boundless energy often proved difficult to contain. It could be tiring to work with her, Lewis said, but it was always joyous.
“She loved her job. Not more than anything – she loved her boys more than anything – but she loved her job. What brought her joy was to work with children,” Lewis said.
Patrick was always high-energy, even as a kid.
“From the time she was little, as soon as she started to talk, she was standing at the door with her little purse, and her first sentence was ‘Going now?’” said her mother, Wendy Patrick.
On another occasion the family was headed to their cabin in the B.C. mountains.
“She said, ‘Mom, I know there’s lots of peace and quiet up there, but I can only take so much peace and quiet.’”
That vivaciousness translated perfectly into her work at the pool, Wendy said.
Lewis agrees. She saw it first hand.
“She could call a kid a butt head. She could laugh with them, but she would do it with such energy that you never took it as something bad,” Lewis said.
“She’d go up and try and fart on them or rustle their hair. She brought excitement or joy. She approached swimming lessons as though she was that eight-year-old boy,” Lewis said.
Kelly had an enormous impact on the community, not just at the Canada Games Centre, Lewis said.
Wendy said her family knew of Kelly’s love for the pool, but they had no idea their daughter meant so much to Whitehorse.
Ramesh Ferris is one of the people behind a push to see Kelly’s memory enshrined at the pool.
“I am a patron at the pool. Kelly was always friendly, and had a beautiful, bright smile. She was encouraging and taught me a lot,” Ferris said.
“It was non-judgmental and full of positive energy and a beacon of positive light and support. Naturally, like everyone in the community when the news broke, I was saddened and shocked,” he said.
Given how much time Patrick spent at the pool, and how much it meant to her, Ferris said he thinks that pool should bear her name.
“I thought it would be very neat if the city could do something and honour her life and work of 17 years to the city by naming the pool after her.”
A petition online to have the pool at the Canada Games Centre named after Kelly has garnered more than 1,500 signatures so far, but in the community’s rush to do something to commemorate its lost friend, no one asked the family what Kelly herself would have wanted.
“We’re just floored,” said Wendy, “but having the pool named after her isn’t really what Kelly would have wanted. Instead, we’ve been talking about having a bench on the side for the little kids to sit on when they wait for their swim lessons. That’s more what she would have wanted.”
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