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Northern Rockies mourn loss of local icon Mike Irwin

Irwin ran marathons to raise charity funds for the BC Lung Association
irwin
Mike Irwin finishing a run at Disneyland, one of many marathons completed for charity during his running career.

The Fort Nelson community is mourning the passing of Mike Irwin, an avid marathon runner, skier, hockey enthusiast, world traveller, and the face of the town’s recreation centre.

Irwin died after losing his battle with cancer. Since 2004, he maintained the community rec centre, running Zamboni on the indoor and outdoor rinks, among other acts of service to the community.

Those who knew Irwin say he was a friendly face and a constant fixture of the rec centre, where he chatted up residents and visitors alike in the Northern Rockies, sharing stories of his travels and taking a genuine interest in others.

Mayor Gary Foster expressed gratitude for Irwin’s dedication to the community and says he was a remarkable man in the face of adversity.

“We’re all going to miss Mike a lot. He always had a kind word for everybody, and it’s just a tragedy, you don’t want to lose any employee. For what he had put in and the things he’d done, he was a remarkable guy,” said Foster. “He always had a friendly word, just an all-around great guy.”

Scott Barrie, chief administrative officer for the municipality, called Irwin a pillar of the community, and had kept in touch with him up until his passing after several cancer treatments in Prince George. 

“A testament to Mike’s determination and positive attitude was how positive he was when we talked that day. No matter what he endured, he was always a pillar of strength,” said Barrie. "I wish I had half the strength and courage that he had – just an exceptional individual who will be dearly missed."

Irwin lost a portion of his right lung after being diagnosed with bronchiectasis in 2010, but health issues never held him back as Irwin continued to run marathons to raise charity funds for the BC Lung Association. His love of travel saw him trek across the globe with visits to Mexico, Australia, Austria, and beyond for skiing and skydiving adventures. 

“He really got a new lease on life after that,” said Jonathan Roberts, a facility maintenance technician who met Irwin in 2004 when Irwin began working at the rec centre. "He was such a social guy and really made himself the face of the centre."

On Wednesday, the Northern Rockies Regional Recreation Centre paid tribute to Irwin in a post to social media.

"He lived a remarkable life and will truly be missed, both by those he worked with and the community that he served every day," the centre said.


Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca