If ever you asked Tom Hendrickson how it was going, his likely reply was, “Everyday is a blessing!” And that’s the way he lived, taking each day as a blessing because tomorrow is never guaranteed.
On Friday, April 19, Tom Hendrickson passed away, leaving behind his wife, Margaret, five children, multiple grandchildren, numerous foster children, and a lasting legacy in the community he diligently served for nearly three decades.
“Tom will be remembered as a kind, caring, compassionate man who believed students came first,” said Karen Nelson, superintendent of the Fraser-Cascade School District (SD 78).
Born in the winter of 1941, Tom grew up in a hard-working lumberjack family, falling trees with his father when he was as young as five. After graduating from high school, he spent time in the mountains prospecting for gold, but his heart yearned for adventure out on the sea. Following his dreams, Tom sailed around the world as a merchant sailor before buying his first commercial boat to fish, which he did for nearly 30 years while raising a family with his wife.
While growing up, the prejudices Tom witnessed against his First Nations friends affected him profoundly, and he ended up spending much of his adulthood working towards equality, especially where children were concerned: that’s how Tom began his career as a school trustee, which lasted 29 years.
“We want to celebrate the wonderful trustee and wonderful man he was,” Nelson said. “For 29 years he was dedicated to (the board), and student safety was of the utmost important to Tom Hendrickson. Students always came first to him.”
“He had a big heart and his actions were (always) based on his love for children,” wrote Linda Kerr, board chair, in an email to The Hope Standard. “Their safety and his desire for positive school experiences for (every child was) always his motivation.”
During his tenure on the board, Tom was a driving force behind many initiatives, with some of the most recent being the installment of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in all school district buildings, the installation of decibel monitors in all shop classes, and was pushing for seat belts on school buses.
And “although he represented the people of the Canyon … he considered children in all parts of the district,” Kerr continued. “It was his motion that resulted in two additional classrooms being built at Kent Elementary to accommodate (its) increased growth in population.
“He tried to see how our collective choices would unfold in the future with different people on the board.”
And now the board will have no choice but to add a different person as Tom’s passing has left a vacancy on the Fraser-Cascade School Board less than a year into its most recent term, triggering the process for a byelection.
The British Columbia School Act states that within 30 days of a seat being vacated, the board must choose a chief election officer and alert the Minister of Education of the election. A date for the election is then set by the chief election officer for a Saturday no later than 80 days after they were appointed.
As for candidates, they must be 18 or older, and a Canadian citizen residing in British Columbia for at least six months prior to the election, and legally able to hold office, while also not already holding a position as trustee in another district.
The cost of the election will also have to be covered by the board, however, it’s too early for the district to provide estimates on what that may cost, or if it will affect its budget going forward.
Whoever steps up will have some big shoes to fill. “His 29 years on the school board was a time of accumulated experience and wisdom,” Kerr said.
“Tom was a mentor for many on the board,” Nelson added. “He’d mentor before and after meetings, and assisted with the trustee orientation in the fall because he could answer a lot of the questions from a historical point of view. His efforts have helped shape our board” and will be carried forward in the work that’s done in the district in the future.
Known for so many things, Tom will also be remembered fondly for his many sayings, like, “If you survey ten people, one of them won’t like home cookin’.” Often, when parting ways, or ending a conversation with him, Tom would say, “Take care my good friend.”
To his spirit the community says the same: Take care our good friend, and thank you for making each day a blessing for so many people.
Tom Hendrickson’s memorial service will be on Saturday, May 11, at 1 p.m., at the Boston Bar Community Hall. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Variety Children’s Charity.