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Friends, family celebrate life of ‘angel from heaven’

Fraser Valley-based percussionist, therapist and volunteer hailed as man with boundless energy, love
Courage Eigbike, a percussionist in John Welsh & Los Valientes, occupational therapist and volunteer, died of cancer on July 3. A celebration of his life is being held Thursday at noon, and is open to the public. Submitted photo

Counsellor, musician, a strong community member and “an angel from heaven.”

That’s what the Fraser Valley lost this month when Courage Eigbike lost his fight against cancer, according to friends, who described Eigbike as an energetic, happy man who gave back to his community.

A ceremony, open to the public, is being held Thursday to celebrate the life of Eigbike — and a celebration is exactly what friends expect the ceremony to be, with attendees asked to wear bright colours, a reflection of Eigbike’s own life.

Born in Nigeria, Eigbike moved to Canada when he was 12 years old with his family, attending Clayton Heights School in Cloverdale. He later studying kinesiology at the University of the Fraser Valley, according to an obituary posted to Facebook, co-written by his wife, Krystina Eigbike, and bandmate John Welsh.

“During this time he worked for Communitas serving people with special needs and was involved in Big Brothers, Big Sisters,” the obituary reads, going on to say that he then moved to Halifax to study occupational therapy.

“Courage returned in 2013 to be close to his Oma and Opa and resumed being an active member of the community as a volunteer, occupational therapist and musical performer.

“He was a strong advocate for the clients he served and was greatly loved by his co-workers, family, friends and everyone that met him, even if only once.”

Eigbike’s final living space was in Chilliwack, a home he bought with his wife, whom he married in 2015, to start a home for their new family, Welsh said in an interview.

“Be kind, live well and love deeply” were the words that Eigbike lived by and those which he imparted upon his loved ones in a legacy video he made toward his final days.

Even enduring 26 rounds of chemotherapy after his April 2017 appendix cancer diagnosis, Welsh said Eigbike pushed on with a positive attitude.

“The first week of chemo, the first three or four days, he would be pretty much tired. But the amazing thing was that he lived a pretty full life even on the chemo,” Welsh said.

“During this time he continued to live life to the fullest; attending social events, being a dedicated dad, maintaining an incredibly positive attitude and touring with the band as far away as California and Mexico,” the obituary reads.

Prior to the chemo, comments from Welsh and Gregory Ould, another friend of Eigbike, paint a picture of a lively, positive man with seemingly boundless energy. On top of playing percussion in the band with Welsh, he volunteered with groups like Big Brothers, Big Sisters and the band played shows for benefits for the Blanket B.C. Society, which is how Ould came to know Eigbike.

Ould, the co-founder and executive director of Blanket B.C., said he first came to meet him at a benefit concert for the non-profit’s 10-year anniversary “and just blew the roof off the house.”

“I did talk to Courage two weeks prior to his passing. He gave me a call to say ‘hi’ and return my phone call,” Ould said. “He was one of those guys that he would light up a room with his smile. You couldn’t say anything bad about him.”

Ould described Eigbike as the type of person one would call when they needed to be picked up from a bad mood.

Eigbike’s music, performed with Welsh in the band John Welsh & Los Valientes, is a reflection of that personality — upbeat songs with draws from global genres, from Latin and folk-rock to West African and reggae.

Welsh said the band’s music videos were a gauge for Eigbike’s personality, and the energy at the band’s live shows often came not just from the upbeat tunes, but from Eigbike himself, Welsh said.

“He knew how to bring the party, get people dancing and stuff like that,” Welsh said. “He was always pointing out people in the crowd and getting ladies dancing. He would go out in the crowd and do conga lines with people at the end of the show.”

The celebration of life will be held at noon Thursday at the Fraser River Funeral Home, 2061 Riverside Rd. in Abbotsford. Attendees are also asked not to bring flowers, but a donation box will be available to contribute to an education fund for Eigbike’s one-year-old son, Ayro.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter
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