The community of Parksville wants the legacy of the late “Flying Phil” to live on, prompting fundraiser organizers to seek online donations to erect a statue in his honour.
Phil St. Luke, well-known in the Oceanside community for his uplifting personality and infectious smile, passed away on Jan. 13 from cancer. He was 70.
On Tuesday, the Flying Phil Advisory Committee launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $80,000, which it says will cover the cost of a life-sized bronze statue of St. Luke to be built and then positioned somewhere in Parksville.
“Phil not only gave thousands of hours to local charity, walked thousands of kilometres around the region no matter the weather, and excelled in his Special Olympic pursuits — but most importantly, he made many feel like we were all neighbours, giving a honk and wave to a familiar face,” reads the GoFundMe, launched on what would have been his 71st birthday.
Parksville city council approved the project on Feb. 6. That’s when councillors said they supported a statue of St. Luke, contingent on funds raised by the community. The city says its role and the statue’s design and location will be determined after reviewing proposals from community groups.
“Rarely has an individual evoked so much joy in the community simply from having their presence and positivity on display, and with a statue, that impact will be able to live on,” said Coun. Adam Fras, who helped bring the project to fruition.
The project was first pitched in 2017, but it did not get council support at that time.
“A statue of Phil is for those of us left behind who want to keep his magic alive a while longer,” the committee wrote to the GoFundMe page.
St. Luke was a ‘spark of light,’ mayor says
It was a death that shocked locals, including Mayor Doug O’Brien who told CHEK News that St. Luke provided the community with “that spark of light every day.” O’Brien, who had known him for more than 30 years, described him as a “total embrace” of everyone.
“So he was a special person,” he said.
Meanwhile, a Salvation Army food drive is happening Wednesday, March 8, on St. Luke’s behalf. Organizers are encouraging people to bring canned and dry goods, as well as toiletries and pet food, to Foster Park on Pym Street from 12-6 p.m.
“Let’s put some bags together and make it easier for those who are in need,” organizers Darcy and Marnie told CHEK News in an email, adding that people can also donate by writing a cheque payable to the Salvation Army Food Bank.
Shortly following St. Luke’s death, other residents like Kelsey Aspholm summed him up as “a legend” of a man who showed up for his community.
“Just to be interactive with him was pretty incredible because he was so happy, and yeah, he would brighten your day. No matter what,” Aspholm told CHEK News.
Recognizing the community’s outpouring of support for the local luminary, Parksville council at a Feb. 22 meeting approved a “Flying Phil” celebration to be funded by the city. All are invited to the event, which will be free to attend and is scheduled for June 9 from 7-9 p.m. at the outdoor theatre in Parksville Community Park.
According to the city, the celebration’s planning is underway, and people can visit the Let’s Talk Parksville website for event updates and information.
In the meantime, people can donate to the GoFundMe here. Organizers say extra funds collected will be donated to charities St. Luke was involved with, like the Special Olympics, SPCA, S.O.S. and Parksville Food Drive.
WATCH: Parksville grieves death of legendary resident ‘Flying Phil’