It was a celebration of a man who remains larger than life to his community.
Over 1,000 people crowded the Lakeside Resort conference centre Sunday afternoon to remember a man who touched many lives.
Nine people, including Bruce Johnson’s son Kevin, stood on the podium Sunday between two large pictures of Bruce—born May 23, 1950—who died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer, to share their stories and talk about their love for him.
As news of his death spread comments began pouring in on social media and where ever people could find space to express their feelings and share personal memories of their time with Johnson.
On the banister of the crowded stairway where people entered the Lakeside, hung some of his most treasured sports jerseys, a friendly welcoming those who came to say goodbye.
“He was a patient caring father when I was growing up my dad never had any rules for me. He trusted me and I trusted him; he treated me like a man for as long as I can remember,” Kevin told the hushed crowd. “My dad wasn’t a big complainer. When we took him to hospice he didn’t complain, when he went for his 87 chemo treatments he didn’t complain. .
“We hear around town around town that he was one of their favourite or all-time favourite teachers, principals, administrators, trustees, which means a lot to the family.”
Johnson’s son also had some funny stories about his dad that the people outside the family might not know.
That included the fact his father couldn’t sing, could not control the volume of his voice and even punched a wild monkey in the face during a overseas trip.
Some of his dad’s eating habits were also a little suspect to his son.
“He ate disgusting things, things like cottage cheese and cornflakes, nobody should do that. In Asia we were constantly batting local street fare out of his hands,” Kevin recalled.
On a more serious note his son said: “My dad provided for his family. He worked hard hard hours, he was a good husband, he was a patient caring father.”
He also spoke about his father’s love of sports, particularly golf, basketball and football and how he taught Kevin’s children the game of golf, “something they’ll take with them the rest of their lives.”
Among those attending Sunday were two of Bruce’s longtime friends and co-workers, Walter Hubert and Frank Regehr.
“It was an honour to have worked with him, an incredible honour,” said Hubert. ”We first worked together when I started teaching, at Princess Margaret. He actually had the classroom across from mine, so that was fun, and we worked together with some of the teams.
“Often, when we had meetings in Vancouver, we would go for a nice walk in downtown Vancouver and along the waterfront, exchange ideas and talk about education, and how much fun we’d had in our educational system.”
Regehr remembered Johnson as easy to work with.
“I worked with Bruce Johnson for about 25 years, he was a principal with the school district here in Penticton and I certainly got to know him through that time. Both working with him and with students and staff in the district, he was always friendly and approachable,” said Regehr. “He cared a lot about the students and education in Penticton.”
In closing, his son Kevin, choking back tears, told the crowd that he could go on talking about his dad, but wasn’t going to because he wanted hem, his dad’s “favourite people” to help the family by continuing to talk about and remember his father, “for days to come, for years to come.”
“I need you to make him live in my children’s memories by sharing those stories.”