Ballenas Secondary School in Parksville is mourning the loss of one of its beloved teachers.
News of the passing of Shayne Vollmers, and his partner Carrie Smith, was shocking to fellow teachers and students. Vollmers and Smith, with their pet dog were returning home from a skiing trip when they were involved in a motor-vehicle incident while travelling along Highway 40 between Lillooet and Gold Bridge on March 21. According to a Lillooet RCMP spokesperson, the vehicle rolled over an embankment with no guardrail and ended at the bottom of hill. The dog also died.
Friend and fellow teacher Jeremy Conn said he had trouble believing it when he heard the news.
“It is heart-breaking and shocking,” said Conn. “I’m at a loss for words. Shayne was an excellent teacher who I have worked with for over a decade at Ballenas and the middle schools and someone I considered a friend. It’s been very upsetting.”
Vollmers, said Conn, ran the Outdoor Pursuits Program and was teaching French Immersion.
“His passion for working with students and teaching them about enjoying nature was unrivalled,” said Conn. “He will be dearly missed. It’s hard to believe. He was just in all my Grade 8 classes doing presentations. His smile is unforgettable and contagious.”
Smith was a registered massage therapist in Parksville and a graduate student from the British Columbia School of Osteopathy.
Her goal was to help patients with their overall health and mobility and shorten recovery periods after times of injury or recurrent discomfort.
Smith’s patients and friends expressed their condolences and sadness on her Facebook page upon hearing her passing.
“This is such terribly sad news,” said Margaret Gurd, one of her patients. “Carrie was such a caring and knowledgeable therapist. She was a huge help to me. I know that she and Shayne contributed enormously to the community. They will be deeply missed.”
Former Ballenas teacher Jon Preston was also saddened by the news and to honour their memory, he has started a petition to rename West Ballenas Island as Vollmers-Smith Island.
“Shayne and Carrie loved the outdoors,” Preston wrote in his petition. “If they weren’t out paddling, sailing, fishing, skiing or surfing, they were working on their cabin on Sonora Island in order to spend more time in the glorious environment that the Vancouver Island coast has to offer. They have been so generous over the years to share these pursuits with so many of us, creating a network of friends that transcends age, ethnicity, language or any other barriers. Shayne and Carrie represented the epitome of good that life in Canada has to offer.”
Preston is calling the Government of British Columbia and the Geographical Names Board of Canada to change the name of West Ballenas Island to Vollmers-Smith Island in memory of their love of nature and their commitment to the preservation and promotion of the natural environment.
To sign the petition go online at change.org.