Politicians and friends pay tribute to Sandy Wakeling

Overflow crowd at memorial service in Pitt Meadows on Wednesday.

Friends, family members, employers and even the premier shared their impressions of Sandy Wakeling at his memorial service Wednesday at the South Bonson Community Centre in Pitt Meadows.

The Langley School District communications manager, former executive assistant to MLA Ken Stewart and long-time Pitt Meadows community volunteer died on July 27, at the age of 42.

The upstairs area of the facility was packed with several hundred people, with many people standing for close to two hours.

The event was emceed by John Appleton, a long-time friend of the Wakeling family.

Premier Christy Clark was tearful as she remembered Wakeling, who was one of the first to encourage her to run for the BC Liberal Party leadership after Gordon Campbell announced his plans to resign.

“He started my leadership campaign before I even knew I was running,” she said.

She saluted him as a builder of the community and the province

“He used his gifts and put them to better use than most,” she said. “Sandy was one of us — he made us all so much better.”

Former MLA Stewart, who hired Wakeling as his executive assistant after winning election in 2001, said they had talked one day about how they would like to be remembered at a memorial service. Wakeling had remarked that he would want to be remembered for having made his community better.

“Sandy, you were a good person and you made this place better,” he said.

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp read from a statement he had hoped to make in the House of Commons, after Wakeling was named Pitt Meadows’ citizen of the year this spring. He didn’t get the chance, as Parliament shut down earlier than he had expected. He plans to read the statement, which focuses on Wakeling’s love of Canada and community service, in the House of Commons in September.

Langley Board of Education chair Wendy Johnson said Wakeling only worked for the school district for about 18 months, but made a significant difference. He developed a communications plan that focused on getting timely information to parents via social media, gave trustees courses in dealing with media and “was very adept at understanding the political landscape.

“In honour of Sandy, our team at the Relay For Life this year was named ‘Sandy’s Soldiers,'”she said. “We wanted to acknowledge how special he was.”

Sandy and his wife Ali were supporters and helped organize the Terry Fox Run in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, even before Sandy was diagnosed with cancer five years ago. The family is asking people to take part in this year’s run, or make a donation to the Terry Fox Foundation in his memory.

A special acknowledgement of his connection to the runs will also come in Port Elgin, Ontario, where he grew up, with tributes to him on Sept. 14 and his sister Tammy carrying a torch in his honour at the run.

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