Dan Laramie at his “farewell to this life” party smoking a cigar and enjoying a drink surrounded by family and friends. (Tara Bowie photo)

March: Communities lose two beloved members

Looking back at our biggest stories from each month in 2019

Keremeos man chooses death with dignified party – music, whiskey and cigars included

After years of serious health struggles related to diabetes, a Keremeos man, Dan Laramie, left this world on his own terms, to the sound of cheers and applause celebrating a wonderful life in early March.

The 68-year-old well-known local musician died in March by medically-assisted death. His wife Stef Laramie, his children, grandchildren and other family members and friends were by his side. The end came after an unforgettable party.

“I figured I got to go out with something. I can’t just fade away in a hospital which is what was going on. I can’t just disappear one day in a hospital room. So, I thought, ‘screw it,’ I’m going to have a bash. I’m going to do something, have some fun and hopefully, while I’m having some fun, it’s teaching people a little bit. I don’t know what it’s teaching them, but I’m sure it’s going to teach them something. I’m sure people are going to leave there with a whole new set of ideas and thoughts that they didn’t have when they came,” he said, shortly before his death.

Dan Laramie at his “farewell to this life” party smoking a cigar and enjoying a drink surrounded by family and friends. (Tara Bowie photo)

An eclectic crowd gathered while Dan lay in bed talking, laughing and smoking a cigar. Conversations spanned from just catching up, to reflections on the reason for the celebration at hand. Many noted Dan’s bravery. Others found hope in the idea death can be on one’s own terms. Some said it was the first party of this kind they’d attended, but they expect to see more as assisted death becomes increasingly common.

In the weeks leading up to his death, he started to build a remote control plane in the hospital. He gifted to his son and grandkids in hopes someday it would be finished and they could spread his ashes over the valley.

Education champion dies

Bruce Johnson was called a champion of education for the Penticton region and sadly he passed away in March at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer for the last several years.

A principal for two decades of his 34-year run in the Okanagan Skaha School District, retiring in 2006 while at Princess Margaret Secondary School.

He went on to win a seat on the school board, first elected as a trustee in 2011 and continued to be re-elected until 2018.

Linda Van Alphen, a trustee for the past 16 years, said she will miss his commitment to the schools and to the community.

“I would have to say that Bruce and I sometimes did not see eye-to-eye on things but I was always absolutely amazed at his courage and also his dedication and commitment to schools and the students in the Okanagan School District,” said Van Alphen at the time. “I know we had some very public confrontations but never, in all the time I was there, did I think he wasn’t committed to the students.”

A testament to his commitment to education, Johnson called into a board meeting as he was undergoing medical treatment in Kelowna at the time and refused to let that stop him from fulfilling his duty to students and parents.

Among the battles he fought in support of education, Johnson worked his hardest to stop the closure of three schools in 2016, two of which were eventually saved.

More than 1,000 people turned out to the Lakeside Resort for the celebration of Bruce Johnson’s life many of those people he had touched in some small way during his time on earth.

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