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‘We’re fighting for Jim’: Namesake, resident of evacuated Kelowna apartment dies

Jim Hadgraft was among the residents evacuated due to neighbouring construction

Kelowna resident Jim Hadgraft has died.

The well-loved man was a resident in the currently evacuated Hadgraft Wilson Place, a limited-income apartment building named after his family. Construction of the UBC Okanagan Downtown Kelowna Campus has caused ground shifting since the fall and a small handful of neighbouring buildings started to show cracks in their structures, including Hadgraft Wilson Place, which led to the evacuation.

The Hadgraft family has been involved with Pathways Abilities Society for more than two decades. Executive director Charisse Daley said Hadgraft wasn’t just a client, but also a friend.

“He’s a really good guy and generous to a fault, always wanting to help others before himself.”

Hadgraft, who lived with Down syndrome, is said to have died in hospital while awaiting surgery on a broken leg.

One of his neighbours, Monique Saebels, said she last spoke with Hadgraft when she had to move hotels while the residents were still evacuated. Saebels said Hadgraft was devastated to be split up from everyone in the building.

“He said, ‘I don’t want you to go, I don’t want you to go.’ I said, ‘Jim, I have to go. They’re moving us.’”

That was the last conversation Saebels had with her friend.

READ MORE: Evacuated apartments residents demand solutions from UBC, City of Kelowna

Hadgraft loved to help others, always holding the door and greeting everyone. His sister, Sue Bauman, said he took guarding the building’s mail very seriously, always worrying someone might try to steal it.

Both Saebels and Bauman said the evacuation was difficult for Hadgraft.

Bauman said her brother got confused and went back to the apartment building with his groceries. Police officers came and assisted Hadgraft in getting back to his hotel. A similar incident happened when Hadgraft was out walking and found himself lost. He asked a couple of strangers for help and they called Saebels using Hadgraft’s phone.

“I don’t think this would have happened if he had been stable and in his own home,” Bauman said. “Accidents happen all the time, but I think that the chance of it wouldn’t have been as strong. It was just too much.”

Bauman praised the Ramada and the other hotels that have opened up to house the evacuated residents.

“I think the more we talk about who has stepped forward the more UBC looks like a loser.”

UBC Properties Trust has resumed construction on its downtown Kelowna campus. Hadgraft Wilson Place is the fourth building to be evacuated in the area near the construction.

Saebels has been a spokesperson for the residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place since the evacuation was announced on March 31.

“If our fight was big before it’s even bigger now. We’re fighting for Jim and we’re going to fight really, really hard,” she said.

Hadgraft Wilson Place residents have started a memorial for Hadgraft outside of the building. Posters and flowers have been attached to the fence blocking off access to the building.

In an email statement to Black Press, UBC Okanagan’s deputy vice-chancellor Lesley Cormack stated, “I was deeply saddened to learn of Jim Hadgraft’s passing. As a family namesake and a centre of the community at Hadgraft-Wilson Place, we know Jim will be remembered for the kindness and care that he showed to everyone around him. I can only imagine how difficult this is for his family, friends, and the Pathways Abilities Society community. I have offered my condolences and those of UBC Okanagan on behalf of students, faculty and staff to his family at this challenging time.”

READ MORE: Construction resumes on UBCO’s downtown Kelowna campus, despite evacuations

Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

I am a video journalist based in Kelowna and capturing life in the Okanagan
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