John McBride left a legacy of a stronger community in False Creek

John McBride, June 2010

The death Oct. 25 of John McBride, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer diagnosed just seven months ago, cut short a lifetime of community service that will leave an enduring legacy.

John was a pillar of the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association, the federation of co-0ps and strata councils that knits together the original False Creek development on the south side of the water between the Cambie and Granville Bridges. I first met John at the FCSNA several years ago when I convinced my own strata council it was time to renew our membership. He was a representative of the False Creek Co-op.

The monthly gatherings in the upstairs boardroom of the False Creek Community Centre were a quiet but stimulating affair that covered the usual range of local issues from dogs off-leash to traffic calming and neighbourhood development.

They were distinguished by John’s distinctive leadership style, which was always in evidence even if he held none of the elected positions normally occupied by “leaders.”

The opposite of “command and control,” it was based on absolute confidence in the ability of a community to prosper if it focuses on co-operation and inclusion. It was coupled with a steely determination to ensure that city leaders, from elected officials down to the front-line staff, responded to community needs. (This is not a simple matter in a city based on at-large representation, where everyone works for all neighbourhoods but is responsible to none.)

He taught those skills during the day as a member of SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development.

Anyone who walks through our neighbourhood can see the evidence of John’s work in the small touches — like the jade fountain hidden by the seawall near False Creek School — that make housing complexes into a community. They are not his personal accomplishment, they are the achievements of a community he helped t0 build.

When I learned of John’s diagnosis, I was recovering at home from my own very serious bicycling accident. I tottered across the park to see him. His calm acceptance of the sudden turn his life was taking was very moving and put my own problem into proper perspective.

Councillor David Cadman, who advised city council of John’s passing yesterday, told me later that John had participated last month in a gathering of about 60 friends for a celebration of his life. Soon after, just a day after he had been cycling on the seawall, the disease overwhelmed him.

He is survived by his wife Val Embree and his son Andre, his daughters Michelle and Christine and three grandchildren.

(Nov. 5: Thanks to Ray Gerow for forwarding the names of John’s daughters, who I didn’t know, the picture, and this longer obituary prepared for the Vancouver Sun.)