Over the next little while I am going to take a few moments occasionally to reflect on lives lived that impacted my life is a variety of fashions.
Today I want to briefly acknowledge the life of John Longstreet who passed away quite suddenly recently from a second bout of cancer. John was perhaps my age, maybe a little younger. He was a very athletic person, in shape and very personable too. He could ski with grace and with speed if needed. He played golf too, although I never got the opportunity to do so with them. Although he came out to Apex Ski Resort every winter to teach at the ski school, he (along with his super-effervescent wife) had only recently moved to Penticton on a permanent basis.
I never took a lesson from John, but those on Ladies Day at Apex who did claimed he was the best instructor they ever had. And judging by the results I would have to agree. He understood the techniques of skiing — it wasn’t about how fast you could ski nor even how readily you were willing to try the Black Diamond runs. It was about how well you could handle the mountain, how competent you were at navigating the terrain, given your current strength, ability and level of confidence. He made his learners “get to better”, to become good skiers. More importantly he also taught ski ethics — manners on the hill, respect for the less capable, caution for the unpredictable. And he did it all with a smile, encouraging words, and through demonstration.
John retired from teaching a couple of seasons back. Last year he spent his time skiing with grandkids, his wife and occasionally with the rest of us. It was always a delight to follow him down the hill, just imitating him made you a more confident skier. This was so true a group of us guys approached him near the end of the ski season and asked him if he would be our unofficial tour/learning guide each Friday this coming season. We would meet him about 9:30 a.m. and ski till about 11:45, then go in and we’d buy him lunch while he’d tell us things we could do to become better skiers. Sadly, this will never happen now.
BUT, the very thought that John was willing to lead “friend of John” (the name we were calling our fledgling group), speaks to how kind and helpful the man was. He was all about sharing his knowledge, his experience and his passion for the sport — he wanted every person he met on the hill to enjoy to the fullest their time in nature. His spirit will always be on that hill. John Longstreet was and is a person I was lucky to know, to ski with, and to learn from… Thank you John.