Smithson: Marking the passing of a ‘giant’
On Saturday morning, I was shocked to learn, upon opening the newspaper of the death of a man who was a giant to all who knew him. And it wasn’t Jack Layton.
You won’t find anything about employment law or labour relations or lawsuits or the courts in this column. Just some thoughts about a guy who took his most important jobs—dad and husband—seriously and who should be celebrated for his accomplishments.
Greg Reimer was one of many parents I’ve known around Kelowna largely as a result of our kids’ relationship.
His son, Will, is the same age as my son, Ty, and they’ve crossed paths innumerable times on rinks and playing fields.
I won’t claim to have been Greg’s friend but, in hindsight, I wish I had been. He never failed to greet me by name, with a broad smile, whenever we bumped into each other around town.
Greg was a young fellow—born three years after me (which, in my books anyway, qualified him as young).
Athletic, energetic and active, he was certainly far too young to be taken from his family and friends.
Most recently, our sons played atom level hockey together. Their teams shared ice time for practice on Thursday afternoons and, as assistant coaches, Greg and I encountered each other on the ice most weeks.
Greg was the kind of guy who was fully “there” at his son’s practice.
Hustling, shouting encouragement, smiling, pumping the kids up with his energy, making good use of limited practice time.
It was easy to see that he valued the time he could spend with Will and with all the other boys and girls on the two teams.
As I went through a challenging period in my own life, on many occasions hardly summoning the desire to lace up my skates, I watched him out on the ice and thought, “Man, that Reimer guy has really got it all together.”
I admired the positive energy he brought to the rink every week, regardless of what might have been going on for him at work that day or how difficult it might have been to make it there for the early afternoon ice time.
He was all there.
The obituary for Greg stated that he was born in Calgary and grew up in Edmonton.
He had a business degree from the University of Alberta and his career was in the pharmaceutical industry.
It was with some discomfort that I read details of his life that I should probably already have known.
Greg and his wife, Carolyn, often welcomed my son into their home for visits with Will.
Will’s favourite hockey team is the Edmonton Oilers, and he and Ty spent their time talking hockey and examining their respective hockey card collections.
I listened to Jack Layton’s funeral later in the day on Saturday, and heard his words repeated for the umpteenth time: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.”
Powerful words, those.
I couldn’t help thinking to myself that the timing of Greg’s death meant that he probably never heard them.
Regardless, from what I knew of him, they capture the way he lived his life.
There won’t be a state funeral for Greg Reimer, but you can bet that in the minds of his wife, Carolyn, and his children, Katie and Will, he was a giant who greatly deserves one.
His community was enriched by his life and will be much poorer for his passing.
Robert Smithson is a labour and employment lawyer, and operates Smithson Employment Law in Kelowna. For more information about his practice, or to subscribe to You Work Here, go to: