Earlier this week, I published a Guest Post by Anabel Marsh on ‘Hidden Histories.’ Her thoughtful, provocative post led to much reflection, including “Who does your town/city honour?’ It’s a great question.
Vancouver Island, where I currently live, is home to influential and well-known actors, artists, athletes, journalists, musicians, philanthropists, politicians, Prime Ministers, scientists, Nobel Laureates, writers and more. Many are honoured on our island in a variety of ways.
One small section of this island is home to a local hero who does not neatly fit into one category. Phil St. Luke (aka ‘Flying Phil’) may not be well-known outside of his surrounding area…but within his community he is much loved and celebrated. Phil is frequently featured in local news stories, has a Facebook Fan Club Page and YouTube video. He leads his town’s annual Canada Day Parade, and his birthday, March 7, is known to locals as ‘Flying Phil Day.’
I first heard of Flying Phil from a previous island resident who had grown up with Phil being a huge part of his community. This man had made a return visit to the island so that his young son could also meet Flying Phil.
What’s so unique about Phil? A former Special Olympian originally from Vancouver, Phil has lived in the Oceanside area since the 1970’s. Unquestionably he has become the community’s unofficial ambassador. He is well known by generations of Oceanside residents for his daily rounds through the town’s streets, coffee shops and businesses where he warmly greets everyone whom he meets. His big smile, his exuberance, his desire to do good and his volunteer work with multiple community programs have been an inspiration to many.
Phil’s relentlessly optimistic outlook is contagious. Common quotes about Phil include “He brings sunshine wherever he goes”, “His presence fills every room he enters” and “Phil is somebody who mingles with everybody.” Gordon Johns (Courtenay-Alberni Member of Parliament) recently posted this about Phil, “He brightens our days and enriches our lives.”
Phil has affectionately been called “a walking landmark.” Numerous community members have advocated for a life-sized bronze statue of Phil to be commissioned and erected in Oceanside. To date, official plans have not been confirmed for the making of this statue. Phil’s playful response, “People want a statue of me, and I’m not even dead!”
I’m proud to live in an area that deeply honours such a unique and inspirational ambassador. It is my belief that erecting a statue dedicated to this local hero would be a well-deserved tribute to this man and would say much about the community that surrounds him.
You can read and watch ‘good news’ stories about Phil here: