It has become common practice in the West, or at least in North America, for pundits to race to identify the legacy of elected officials and other leaders who depart the public stage.
Whether through election, retirement, scandal or death, those departures are reflexively followed by a cataloguing of the major accomplishments — or failures — of the figure in question.
Bev Parnham served in public office on North Vancouver Island from 1989 until her untimely death last week at age 62.
But Parnham, who was in her second term as Mayor of Port Hardy, is remembered today not as a politician, but as a mother and grandmother, as a friend, as a supportive colleague.
Long a tireless supporter of the North Island’s people, Parnham has been credited by fellow councillors and colleagues with a collaborative and inclusive approach to problem-solving.
If she carried an ideology into office, she never wore it on her sleeve. She entered public service not as a lawyer or business owner with an axe to grind, but as an employee of School District 85 who saw a need and wanted to contribute.
Like her longtime friend and colleague Al Huddlestan, who preceded her in death by 14 months, Parnham is credited with a human and, when needed, humourous approach to negotiating with provincial officials and others who seem often to hold a bit too much power over those who live in B.C.’s more remote regions.
Jessie Hemphill, the youngest member of Port Hardy’s council and the current acting mayor, spoke of sitting with Parnham at regional or provincial meetings and being struck by her ability to engage with and compromise with her counterparts without acrimony.
And that was just Bev on the job.
In the community, if you should have happened to bump into her at an entertainment or sporting event — which often involved her family members — you were most likely met with a warm smile and wishes that all was well with you and your family.
We’d like to take this opportunity to offer our own best wishes, and our condolences, to Bev’s children, grandchildren and closest friends and relatives.
We’ve lost a treasured leader, sure. But you’ve lost a treasure.