A 'force for good' and a source of joy: Ryan and Hugh Nickerson's legacy remembered

The North Shore father and son were sharing their passion for fishing when they were swept into the raging waters of the Capilano River after the dam's spillway was mistakenly opened without warning

Ryan Nickerson and his son Hugh are being remembered for the way they brought joy and happiness to everyone’s lives — especially their family’s.

“[Ryan’s] gentle nature, coupled with his open expressions of love and appreciation for others, meant that he was always there to lend a smile and use his energy as a force for good. He continues to inspire us all,” says the obituary for the 61-year-old North Vancouver resident who was killed, along with his 27-year-old son Hugh, when they were sharing their passion for being outdoors. They were fishing on the Capilano River on Oct. 1 when the spillway gate of Cleveland Dam was mistakenly opened, sending a massive tsunami of water down the river without warning. Several anglers were swept into the river, including the Nickersons.

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In the obituary, the family captures the essence of the two men.

“Above all,” they write, “Ryan was a loving husband, father, and friend. He will be fondly remembered for his unending patience, genuine kindness, and unconditional generosity (as well as a legendary ability to recycle his own jokes).”

“Hugh brought joy to people,” the obituary says. “He possessed a dry sense of humour, a quick wit and a laugh that drew others to him. He was thoughtful, easygoing and observant – until he broke in with comment that would light up the room. His smile relayed his calm, laid-back nature that included everyone in its warmth. Hugh will be remembered for his genuine knack for friendship; he had a rare ability to bring people together and make friends effortlessly.”

Ryan Nickerson
Ryan Nickerson passed on his love of hockey to his son Hugh. photo Nickerson family/McKenzie Funeral Services

Ryan grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. After university, his career landed him in Calgary where he met “the love of his life,” Barb Rogers. After their 1988 marriage, they eventually made their way to North Vancouver where they raised their two children, Hugh, who was born in 1993, and Emily.

“For over 30 years,” the family writes, “Ryan worked in the advertising and telecommunications industries where he earned the respect of his colleagues and employees. He approached work in the same way he approached life: with creativity, curiosity, and humour. In his spare time, Ryan often neglected his household chores in favour of playing hockey three times a week and cycling when he wasn’t doing that.”

In retirement he found the time to pursue his talents as an artist and musician. “Ryan was fearless in exploring new creative endeavours. He had a gift for observation and his art captured the beauty of the world as he saw it.”

Hugh Nickerson
After growing up on the North Shore, Hugh Nickerson's adventurous spirit took him around the world. photo Nickerson family/McKenzie Funeral Services

Living on the North Shore, the Nickerson family embraced the outdoor opportunities in their backyard. This passion for the outdoors fuelled a quest for adventure in Hugh. “He was an avid traveller who explored all parts of the world. Whether surfing in Southeast Asia, cliff jumping in South America, or skiing the Coast Mountains, he always had a good story to tell and a laugh to share,” his family writes. “At the same time, he was never fazed by the fear of missing out; he had an amazing ability to enjoy himself and fully appreciate where he was and what he had in life. Closer to home, he sought adventure by discovering – usually by ski, bike, or kayak – B.C.’s mountains and waterways.

“Although he was taken too early, Hugh lived a life rich in experience, exploration, and friendship. He fully lived every minute of his 27 years.”

Hugh was a graduate of Handsworth Secondary and BCIT. With his love of hockey and skiing, he went to work at Whistler Blackcomb where he thrived, “turning his love of skiing into a livelihood.”

In the obituary, Hugh’s family offers solace to his many friends who are deeply feeling his loss. “The spark that was Hugh Nickerson remains alive in the hearts and memories of those lucky enough to have known him. He would want you to keep that alive and nurture it by creating adventures and memories with those that you love. This is his gift to all who grieve his passing.”

The funerals for father and son will take place later. Memorial donations in their honour can be made to North Shore Rescue.

You can read the full obituary here.


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