Norgate welcomes injured senior home with parade

The last thing Bob Pearson remembers from the crash is his red and white cane flying above his head.

The 91-year-old blind senior was crossing Marine Drive on March 3 when the driver of a tow-truck turning left struck him in the crosswalk and dragged him several metres.

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After almost three full months in Lions Gate Hospital, Pearson arrived back at his Norgate home on Monday, minus one leg.

“I’m just fine. I’m in a wheelchair for at least 10 months, they tell me. They’re a bit dubious about an artificial leg working at my age,” he said. “I’m definitely going to try it.”

Pearson is well known in the neighbourhood thanks to his many walks.

Pearson’s daughter Kathy and one of his neighbors organized a drive-by/walk-by/bike-by parade to welcome him home. Pearson’s daughter Kim Bryan estimated there were 100 well-wishers who marshalled at Norgate Park and took turns passing by to say hello from a safe distance.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “I think everybody was in tears. There were so many people. I’m going to cry just talking about it.”

Spending so much time in Lions Gate was “a little tough,” Pearson recalls. He was admitted to hospital just days before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. He had a slew of visitors at first. But soon after, they suddenly stopped coming.

“[The nurses] said ‘Oh, don’t you know? We’re locked down. There’s a big virus epidemic.’ It was all news to me,” he said.

There were COVID-19 outbreaks on wards next to and beneath his, but thankfully his unit was spared. And Pearson said he was very well taken care of.

“The staff there is wonderful. I’ve got nothing to complain about – except the food,” he said.

After concluding their investigation in May, the RCMP recommended the Crown lay one charge of driving without due care and attention against the 64-year-old North Vancouver man driving the tow-truck, although no charge has yet been sworn. The driver told police he couldn’t see Pearson because the sun was in his eyes.

“Because I am partly blind, I can appreciate that,” Pearson said. “I don’t really hold any animosity against him at all. If you think back, I might have done the same thing.”

But, it wasn’t the first time a driver put him at risk, Pearson said, and after having three long months to think about it, he’d like to see some things change. He’s had the ‘bejesus” scared out of him several times while crossing Marine and he said the problem is with crossing signals that overlap with green lights.

“I think they should have a delay so that pedestrians have 20 seconds to get across the road without any cars turning right, or left, or anywhere. We should have that space and time,” he said. “Drivers are impatient.”

Pearson’s home had to be retrofitted to accommodate his new mobility challenges. ICBC has agreed to cover only about $60,000 of the $130,000 the work is expected to cost, so the family has hired a lawyer.

Now that he’s home, Pearson has to stay quarantined for two weeks. He’s getting used to the new rules about social distancing and masks. Soon, he plans to figure out how to garden from his wheelchair. Neighbours have offered to bring meals, but Pearson has gotten the hang of online shopping.

Sadly, his companion and walking partner, an aged black lab named Holly, had to be put down shortly after Pearson went to the hospital.

“If anybody was to pop by and let their dog visit with him, that's the one thing he doesn't have,” Bryan said with a laugh. “That's what makes him tick – animals.”

Eventually, the Norgate senior wants to be back to his daily walks. It’s likely Pearson never knew before how much he means to the little community, Bryan said. After the offers of help and the parade to welcome him home, there should be little doubt.

“It was just super. I got a little choked up,” Pearson said. “What a great neighbourhood.”

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