Taxi driver recalls Stephen Hawking’s 1993 visit to Victoria


WATCH: As the world remembers Stephen Hawking, two Victoria men share their experiences meeting him. April Lawrence reports.

Stephen Hawking arrived in Victoria’s Inner Harbour on June 30, 1993, for a quick tour of the city. He stopped to answer media questions about North Saanich’s Sue Rodriguez, who also had ALS, and who at the time was battling for a doctor-assisted death.

“I feel that people have the right to die if they want it is one of the few rights a severely ill person has left,” Hawking told CHEK News at the time.

Hawking was helped into a taxi driven by BJ Roberts, who recalls his day as Stephen Hawking’s tour guide vividly. Hawking had three assistants but issued all directions himself.

“He told me with the computer with the thing in his mouth we want to go to the University of Victoria so we went,” Roberts said.

Hawking wanted to see the campus, then a beach in Oak Bay. After that, Roberts dropped them off at the Empress for lunch before Hawking headed back to Seattle.

Roberts says although he knew little about Hawking’s research, he knew he was in the presence of greatness.

“Every once in a while something comes along and you take advantage of it and you savour it and you value it for life and that’s what I’m doing,” he said.

The host of CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, Bob McDonald, also met Stephen Hawking at a lecture in Ontario where Hawking was speaking.

“Half the people in the room don’t even know what he’s talking about, quantum theory, black holes, spontaneous particles coming into existence, the big bang, grand unification theory, but even though you don’t understand all of it, he brought it to the public mind,” said McDonald.

McDonald got a chance to talk to Hawking after and focused on his zero-gravity flight, something McDonald himself had recently experienced.

“So I said Professor Hawking ‘I’ve been on that same plane that you were on, I’ve done that so I know what you went through and it was really amazing,'” said McDonald.

“He gave me a wink and he smiled at me with his eyes and for a short moment I felt a connection to Stephen Hawking, it still gives me chills to think about it,” he said.


April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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