Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bro. Denis Fontaine - Carpe Diem

Yesterday I learned the sad news that a dear friend of mine and fraternity brother, Denis Fontaine, 40, had passed away while kayaking in extreme conditions near Anvil Island in Howe Sound, northwest of Vancouver, BC.

My last memory of Denis...

Last I saw him was by chance in August 2006, while visiting a friend in Deep Cove, North Vancouver, BC. I rode a bus up from Seattle, where I was visiting my sister on my way back from a two week training session in San Diego. Anyway, that evening, we decided to head to a local pub one evening, where after waiting in line for 15 minutes, it was packed wall to wall and beer difficult to get to. Soon, I hear my name being called. It was none other than Denis, who joined my fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, back in 1987, which means I've known him for over 15 years now. He asked how our fraternity chapter was doing at the University of Alberta, as he was close with a lot of the brethren. We toasted to some shots of sambucca, reminisced and laughed. I can't think of a better last memory to have with someone such as Denis.

About Denis...

Denis was always excited about life, smiled all the time, and cared deeply what other people were up to. He literally lit up the room with his charm.

Denis was a professional extreme adventurer. Whether it be kayaking, mountain biking, or cross country running, although he was only 40, being as active as he was, he probably lived 5 more lifetimes than most people.

Although I had only seen him a few times in the past five years, I have many fond memories of him from the fraternity.

Back in the mid-90's, our fraternity alumni association put together a group of runners and helpers for the annual June Kananaskis 100 Relay though the Alberta Rocky Mountains. Out of the team of 10 runners, Denis took on the final 10km leg, which began at the dam and went through the mountain forest, ending up at the finish line at Nakiska ski resort. His legs were bloodied from a fall, but it didn't seem to phase the guy.

Farewell, my brother.
"Sing softly once again, of the loved ones gone before
Whom oft we used to meet, in the happy days of yore
E'en while now we're gathered here, in the twilight soft and sweet
Seem their spirit hov'ring near, o'er thine altar DKE."

From "We Hail Thee Holy Goddess".

The following article describes Denis to a T.

Kayakers die

Howe Sound outing turns tragic

Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun

Published: Monday, October 08, 2007

Denis Fontaine rarely let a day go by when he wasn't outdoors training, hiking, kayaking or mountain biking. He lived for training in the outdoors, his friend Marc Campbell said.

"His life was 'hurry up and work' so he could get outside and play," Campbell said.

"He loved to live life. He'd climb, he'd run, he'd hike...he was always doing something."

Denis Fontaine (left) and Richard Juryn died in hospital after their kayaks overturned in Howe Sound on Sunday. They were out with a group attempting to circle Anvil Island when high winds caused rough waters. A third kayaker is still in critical condition.

And Sunday was no exception. Fontaine, who celebrated his 40th birthday last week, headed out with buddy Richard Juryn and six others for a morning paddle and hike on Anvil Island in Howe Sound.

The fit and experienced kayakers - who often went out together for outdoor adventures - left Porteau Cove in four double kayaks at about 7:30 a.m. for a hike up the peak on Anvil Island.

When they headed back toward shore about five hours later, they hit pounding rain, two-metre (seven-foot) high swells and winds gusting to as high as 85 kilometres an hour.

The kayak carrying Fontaine and his girlfriend overturned in the rough weather, pitching them into the water. As one of the kayaks paddled toward Porteau Cove to call the coast guard, Juryn picked up Fontaine while another kayak scooped up his girlfriend. Then disaster struck.

As Juryn headed toward shore, the overloaded kayak flipped, tossing the three men into the frigid water. They tried to swim to shore.

When the coast guard arrived, both Fontaine and Juryn were found face down in the water, said Marc Proulx, maritime coordinator for Victoria's Joint Rescue Coordination Centre.

They died later in hospital; the third man is in critical condition.

Proulx said the men had been in the water for at least an hour.

Fontaine's girlfriend, who was taken in the other kayak to Anvil Island, has mild hypothermia.

"I'm devastated," said Campbell, who has known Fontaine for about 12 years.

"He's pretty much the most likable guy. When he walked into a room, the party started."

Both Fontaine and Juryn, 50, lived in Deep Cove and were seasoned adventurers who were well known and respected in the outdoor adventure industry.

Juryn, who is married with two teenaged children, was a central figure in the push for more cross-country mountain bike trails and bringing them up to world-class level. A masters expert in cross-country mountain bike racing, Juryn, who ran his own company Shore Events from home, was involved in organizing Crankworx and Whistler Mountain Bike Festival.

Tina Faulkner, whose husband Bob was in another kayak and survived the ordeal, said Juryn was well known in North Vancouver and was a "very giving man."

"It's a nightmare," she said.

"A couple of hours after, the weather calmed down. They just got caught in very bad weather.

"It's just a huge, huge loss."

Campbell, who has known Juryn for about seven years, said he was a "super enthusiastic" person, an incredible father and devoted family man. Fontaine, he said, was a social guy who was strong, fit and had many friends. Everyone wanted to be around him.

He had been a sales rep at outdoor company Helly Hansen before taking a job with Merrill Apparel.

When he wasn't working, he trained for everything - kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing and climbing - but probably loved cross-country mountain biking most, Campbell said.

"He worked a bit and trained a lot - he would rush home and play," Campbell said.

"He is carpe diem, he lived every day. He will be missed for sure."


Paul said...

Brother Bayrak:

As one of Denis' DKE pledge brothers and schoolmates, I feel a tremendous loss at his passing.

Denis Fontaine truly was a force of nature...a thriving and passionate young man who spread good cheer like Johnny Appleseed. His willful nature was surpassed only by his geniune happiness and ability to live in the moment. He personally gave me unstoppable smiles, and I know that his passionate and spirited life is an example to everyone.

While he was taken from us at the young age of 40, he truly did live 5 lifetimes' worth of experience.

Rest in Peace, Denis!

Colin DB said...

I met Denis through Hugh Moncrieff in I think the fall of 1985. Hugh was pledging and Denis was not. Although that soon changed. I have a ton of memories. Denis was the life of any party and man was he a whizz (wolf?) with the ladies. And one hell of a squash player. I remember a house party that Garrett Jones and I had -- Denis was so funny. I had seen him a games a few years back. And of course, when I organized Marty Chamberland's stag a few years back -- Denis flew in from Vancouver -- we had a blast. Anyone remember? Ha Ha. Denis you will be sorely missed.

blueheeler said...

That's terrible. He'll be missed this weekend.