It was all about fond memories.
Humorous stories and inspirational words were shared, people laughed and they cried, but most importantly they remembered.
About 1,500 co-workers, friends and family members came to the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre on Monday afternoon to help celebrate the life of Mark Taylor, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture who died tragically last month in a skiing accident.
The crowd included a huge mix – from former mayors and political candidates to friends, boy scouts and members of the general public.
Mark Taylor touched a lot of lives.
Tom MacDonald, a close friend of the Taylor family, was master of ceremonies.
He addressed the crowd and thanked them all for coming.
“When I see this wonderful turnout this afternoon, it makes me think that Mark would say, ‘Did you charge for tickets and did you sell beer?’ I believe he probably would have wanted that to happen,” joked MacDonald.
Fire Chief Don Beer and former city manager Frank Pizzuto also spoke at the event.
“Inspirational comes to mind, when I think of Mark,” said Beer.
He said Taylor was always there to offer support and some inspirational words.
“They come in the fashion of ‘Just do it’ or ‘Anything is possible; you just have to believe in yourself.’”
Pizzuto brought a bottle of wine, poured several glasses, called some of Taylor’s friends up to the stage and toasted him. He encouraged the entire audience to yell out cheers.
More accolades followed both about Taylor’s private and professional life.
Taylor’s brother Jim said Mark “cared about people” and it showed in the number of people who came out to the event.
Jim said the family has appreciated all the letters and words of support that have come in since the tragedy.
Taylor’s love of the outdoors was a major theme of the day.
“He was like the Johnny Appleseed of hiking,” said Taylor’s brother Steve.
“I can honestly say that after every one of our outings … I’d have nothing but great memories of that day. I’d just needed Mark to push me along.”
Mark’s son Kyle said his dad always told him to control his emotions.
“I feel this is as good a time as any to practise this.”
He called his father an “amazing dad” and an “incredible role model” who shared his love of the outdoors with his children.
Kyle said his father was never afraid to try something new and always set goals to achieve. He also taught him life skills.
“Like forgiveness, having compassion for others and, above all, being graceful even if the situation calls for being anything but,” said Kyle.
“My dad died doing what he loved, with who he loved in the environment he was most comfortable with. He was always in his element, when he was against the elements. This is where he was happiest.”
The final speaker was Taylor’s daughter Lindsay, who told the crowd one of her dad’s common catch phrases to her was “Go big, girl.”
She told the emotional story of a Christmas present she received from her dad in 2008. It was a journal for her to write her goals into and to comment on them on a weekly basis. In it was a letter explaining how to succeed in life and offering advice on how to live.
“I hope you enjoy your journal and I know you will enjoy your life. You’re a Taylor,” it concluded.
“I can’t imagine a life without my dad and my best friend. But if I live by these words I hope that I won’t have to,” she said.
The event ended with a slide show of photos from Mark’s life, set to music, playing on the arena’s video screen overhead.