Then there were two. The ‘Three Old Musketeers’ have lost their leader.
Like so many Kelowna residents, I was deeply saddened last week by the death of Barry Urness.
Kelowna has lost a great human being.
Barry and I were very close friends and I already miss him dearly. Because of Barry, this world is a better place, and I am a better and stronger person.
There is also no question that as a community we are so much richer in sports and culture than before Barry Urness came on the scene.
Barry was much more than just a friend to me.
Much like my friend Howie Meeker is, Barry Urness was a friend, big brother, father, and mentor. He was also (over the years) a co-worker, fellow board member and my chiropractor.
In fact, I knew Barry when he was the chiropractor for my parents.
I largely kept in touch with ‘Bear’ for several years on a ‘need you’ basis. My back would seize up and I would call Barry to say, “I need you.”
However, going to Dr. Urness was never a quick fix.
First, you would get the five or 10 minute warmup chat as he checked in with your life, then shared his latest sporting escapade, usually involving the Okanagan Sun football team or helping some community event.
When I ran for Kelowna city council three years ago, Barry pumped me up with advice and wise suggestions during our back snapping sessions. I found his ability to cut through things to be amazing.
After being elected to council, I was named chairperson of the Kelowna Civic Awards committee, on which Barry was a member of the sports committee, that he had served on apparently for the previous 22 years.
We served three years together after that. Remarkable.
Soon Barry, myself, and a third character with a love for laughter and sports, Al Paterson, began to get together once every month or two for a lunch and swap yarns. It was the beginning of a wonderful ritual.
When I was defeated along with five other incumbents in the 2011 civic election, I was devastated.
Naturally, I did my very best to pretend I was not that badly hurt or wounded because, well, that is the nature of the game. Regardless, I was pretty rocked and Barry knew it.
He also knew there would be lots of folks, or at least a few key folks, who would be there to console me. So Barry took the old-fashioned sport coach, dad approach and gave me a gentle kick in the ass.
In Barry’s own gentle but-to-the-point way he got me back into the fight.
I am so glad he did.
I hid out for two months following the election, but finally both Al and Barry would not take ‘no, I’m busy’ one more time and dragged me out of my house for a burger and beer.
After that, the lunch ritual of the ‘Three Old Musketeers’ (as Kamel Abougoush at the Grateful Fed dubbed us) increased to once every three weeks or so as we’d check in on each other, swap some lies, warm up some memories and share a lot of laughs.
The long years of shared friendship and stories flooded back, each of us remembering incidents involving the three of us from some previous time, or individual humorous scenarios involving other media or sports folks we all knew. The stories never ended.
We three also spent a lot of time discussing our various medical situations and shared our thoughts on things at a level seldom shared over lunch in a restaurant by three guys.
The full understanding that all three of us were plain bloody lucky to even be alive, and that our candlewicks may not be long, enhanced our meaningful lunches.
About two months ago, when Barry’s expected wick was set to very short due to his progressed stomach cancer, we made a point of gathering more often.
“Why not? We have no time to waste,” Barry said, gleaming in his big beautiful smile way.
As always, Barry was right.