Tim Jones, a tireless volunteer who had become the primary spokesman for North Shore Rescue, died Sunday evening at the age of 57 after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest on Mount Seymour.
He had spent the day with his team, conducting avalanche awareness and training exercises, and collapsed on the trail to the rescue cabin, with daughter Taylor, dog Abbi, and North Shore Rescue teammate, Erik, by his side.
Jones worked as an advanced life-support paramedic with B.C. Ambulance in North Vancouver, and volunteered up to 40 hours per week with North Shore Rescue. He took part in dozens of rescues every year, and touched the lives of many members of his community — many of whom came to pay their respects and say goodbye.
On Saturday morning, thousands of people lined the route of the procession, which left the Fell Armoury in North Vancouver and headed to Centennial Theatre.
Jones's cremated remains travelled inside an ambulance, escorted by search and rescue volunteers, bagpipe players, and an honour guard of police, paramedics, firemen, military personnel and other emergency responders on the closed streets.
Darrell Mussato, Mayor of the City of North Vancouver, said the response was overwhelming.
"I've been on council for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this," said.
Tributes from the nation
Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent his condolences to Jones's family — including wife Lindsay, son Curtis and daughter Taylor — which were read by MP Andrew Saxton.
"I admire the courage, compassion and dedication of rescue service volunteers. Tim Jones was an exemplar of the valour demonstrated by these everyday heroes," Saxton read. "Countless families have had a loved one saved from peril thanks to his valiant efforts."
B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton read a statement from B.C. Premier Christy Clark, on behalf of the entire government of British Columbia.
"It takes a unique, dedicated person, a courageous and tireless individual, to rush from the comfort of bed, or dinner table, a school recital or a birthday party, into the cold of night and trek deep into the wilderness for someone else's sake. That was the kind of man Tim was," Anton read.
"He represented the North Shore and British Columbia at our absolute best," she said.
"He dedicated the best part of his life to helping people in the worst moments of theirs. Tim Jones and North Shore Rescue, for many people, meant the difference between life and death."
Lifelong friend Ross Hallaway described knowing 'Timmy' ever since 1962, when Mary and Owen Jones moved their young family — Susan, Owen, and Tim — from Edmonton to North Vancouver. He developed a love of reading in school and, once the family moved to a home under the shadow of Grouse Mountain, he also developed a great love of nature and the Pacific coastal mountains.
By the time he graduated from high school, Jones was fully into football. On a full scholarship at Simon Fraser University, he earned a B.A. in geography and then got drafted by the Toronto Argonauts. A knee injury sidelined those plans and he went back to SFU, to complete a teaching degree and begin coaching football. Soon, however, he found himself called to the path of a paramedic.
"The intense, often heart-racing urgency of the first response, the challenge of making instant life and death decisions and the incomparable satisfaction of saving a live appealed to Tim's life," Hallaway said.
In 1981, Jones met the love of his life, Lindsay, at a New Year's Even party at Mount Baker. Three years later, they were married and their children, Curtis and Taylor, were born in the following years.
A father remembered
Son Curtis Jones, who also volunteers with North Shore Rescue, spoke publicly about his father earlier in the week, said the one word that fit his father best was "unique."
"Not just unique in the ordinary sense, but unique in the sense that he always stood out in the crowd," he said. "He set his own path and he did what was right without getting bogged down by politics or protocol, and for this he made no apologies."
"This drive is why he was the guy you'd want looking for you if you ever got lost," he said.
"I feel privileged to have not only been able to call him dad, but also my best friend, my mentor, and my colleague," he said.
"Dad, when the pager goes, we'll be there."
Then colleagues, team members and friends told stories and jokes about Jones's determination to do the best job he could, all the time, but especially when someone's life was on the line.
Jones's daughter, Taylor, spoke last at his memorial, where she said she loved his smile, his laugh, his kind heart, devotion to helping others, devotion to making a difference in other people's lives and fierce determination to growing North Shore Rescue's capabilities.
"He was my hero and my best friend," she said. "I'll remember growing up at the rescue base and playing my Barbies amongst the rescue gear, while he tireless worked to make North Shore Rescue the organization it is today.
"I'll miss sometimes cringing at what he says on the news, but I'll always remember how proud I felt of my dad for bringing other people's loved ones home," she said.
"He love my family and I and our husky Abbi so much," she continued, through tears. "On Sunday night, my dad left me on Mount Seymour to become an angel. My heart broke into a million pieces."
"You are now my angel, and the angel of everyone who goes into the mountains," she said. "I will love you forever."
She encouraged everyone to make donations in memory of her father to the North Shore Rescue's Legacy Fund
A slideshow of family photos set to music was shown to the 600 people seated in the theatre, and also broadcast to screens outside the theatre.
A few more remarks where made, a pipe band played Amazing Grace, a trumpeter played Taps and then Jones's memorial moved back outside.
As a line of first responders, from various organizations in various uniforms, stood watch and saluted, Jones's remains and personal effects — hat and helmet — were walked to an adjoining field toward four helicopters, including the 442 squadron military helicopter and RCMP Air 1 that assisted Jones and his team on so many life-saving rescues.
Tim Jones was passionate about the use of helicopters in search and rescue operations, and had worked to make sure there was enough the funding and availability of both pilots and machines for operations in the coastal mountains.
Fittingly, as his North Shore Rescue family stood watch, Jones's remains were carried onto a Talon helicopter, which took off to take him on one final flight over the North Shore mountains.