Derek Lucas might have a day named after him but, sadly, it awards him none of the perks he'd been hoping for.
Lucas says, "I said, 'Does this get me free parking and free beer along the strip?' (White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin) said, 'Nope!'"
At least he has a plaque. Lucas admits, it's better than nothing.
At the Rotary Club of White Rock Christmas Party on Dec. 8, mayor (and fellow Rotarian) Baldwin proclaimed the day Derek Lucas Day, honouring Lucas for his exhaustive community service efforts through the club.
Lucas' entire family was in attendance, and it was just one of the honours bestowed upon him that night: he received the Peace Through Service award and a Paul Harris Award, which he received along with his wife, Donna.
He was recognized primarily for establishing and running Rec for Kids, a not-for-profit that reconditions sports and recreation equipment for kids in need throughout the region. But this was only part of it.
It was also the nicest way his friends could think of to say goodbye. Lucas was diagnosed with leukemia in April 2011. After 14 months of chemotherapy, the doctors said there wasn't much else they could do for him. Lucas is now receiving regular blood transfusions as a means to prolong whatever time left he has.
"You like to hear the nice things about you before you pass away as opposed to after," Baldwin says. "You can't do much about it.
While his family was there, I figured this was a good time to [honour him]."
His friends - Baldwin included - worry that Lucas has only a few weeks left to live, but the 75-year-old South Surrey resident certainly doesn't carry himself like a dying man. He doesn't even look sick and, other than the cough (the result of an apparently unrelated cold), he doesn't feel sick.
His conversation is peppered with casual humour and a droll English charm. He discusses his illness as if he'd been dealt a lousy hand at poker - a bummer, for sure, but nothing to get bent out of shape about.
"You can't roll over and play dead and get lost within yourself," he says. "There's a card that's been dealt to you. Deal with it."
"He doesn't give up," says Jaqui Joys, president of the Rotary Club of White Rock and close friend of the Lucases. "His sense of hope is incredible, through all adversity that he's experienced."
Born in Surrey, England, Lucas immigrated to Canada and settled, somewhat ironically, in Surrey, B.C. For the last 15 years of his career, he owned Lucas Telecomm, a technology manufacturer distribution operation.
During that time, he flirted very briefly with politics and was involved with the Reform Party. Seeking another way to give back to his community, he joined Rotary at the invitation of former MP Val Meredith.
From that point forward, he devoted the bulk of his time to the organization, serving as president for the club's 2010-11 calendar year. He established Rec for Kids in 2007 and served as president until his diagnosis. He says the organization has been vital in providing needy children the opportunity to become contributing and engaged members of society.
Joys says, "There are now a lot of people riding bicycles and using sports equipment that wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford them (because of him)."
This is a man who's instilled a sense of empathy and goodwill in all his children and inspired the same in his colleagues. This is a man who'd never want his illness to overshadow the efforts of his fellow Rotarians, or the volunteers at Rec for Kids.
Now, as he faces death with humour and grace, his friends and family seem more impressed than ever.
He says, "When I was (young) and I thought about dying, I thought, 'Oh God, how can I do that?' But I'm 75 years old. There's nothing scary about it. You think you're going to miss watching all the grandchildren grow up, but then you rationally think about it and, well," he laughs, "I won't know I'm missing watching the grandchildren grow up."
And there has been a positive here. His illness has forced him to finish up all the little tasks he needed to get done for Rotary, and for Rec for Kids.
"I'm probably less of a procrastinator now than I was," he says, his wife Donna laughing beside him.
And the top of that list? Ensuring that Rec for Kids has enough volunteers to keep going.
Visit www.recforkids.com for more information.
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