Before the sun comes up every morning, a group of local guys sit drinking coffee in Gary’s Bistro, chewing over the issues of the day and enjoying each other’s company. Last week they learned about the death of their friend Gary Hopkins, the owner of the bistro, and as they shared stories Thursday morning with The NEWS the word “shock” was echoed around the table.
“It’s kinda like the guy that’s larger than life that you always think’s gonna be there,” said Tom Head.
Len Daczko said he was having coffee last week and heard that Gary was going in for a heart operation in Victoria. Hopkins is survived by his wife of 45 years, Glenys, children Keri and Trevor and grandchildren Nichollas and Mackenzie.
“I was going away for a week and when I was leaving I stuck out my hand and I shook Gary’s hand and he smiled and said, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna die, I’m just going in for an operation.’ ”
Hopkins was well known around town for his involvement with business associations and the local car clubs, particularly for creating the Father’s Day Show and Shine, now billed as the Mid-Island’s largest event. His friends say he was a great businessman, operating a hotel in Port Alberni, working as a local builder, running the Sand Pebbles restaurant in Qualicum Beach and about 20 years ago, opening Gary’s Bistro.
“He was a wheeler and a dealer,” a voice from the group of about 12 men said, receiving nods from around the table.
But when asked what they’ll remember most about Hopkins, it was his fun-loving personality and the fact that he was always up for a party.
“Gary was non-stop from the minute he got up to the minute he went to bed. The faster he could go the more fun he thought everyone would have. And if you rolled with Gary you knew—guaranteed, you were gonna find yourself in some sort of trouble,” said Dave Bryan.
“He was an adrenaline junkie,” one of the men said, and another, “He didn’t know what the status quo was.”
Bryan recalled a fishing trip with Hopkins once in Port Alberni where the canal was teeming with fish. But it wasn’t about the fishing for Gary, he said. It was about being there with the guys. So after they fished for a little while Hopkins stopped the boat and said, ‘that’s enough of the fishing’. He cranked up the music.
“Let’s just have fun and forget the fish,” Bryan recalled him saying.
The guys also shared some stories about Hopkins coming into the Bistro sporting tight spandex biking shorts.
“We came in anticipation of the spandex!” someone shouted out from around the table.
Bryan said Hopkins was the first middle aged guy in the area to wear the skin tight attire, and nobody could believe it. But despite the laughter he encountered, he was the one who laughed the hardest, Bryan said.
“He laughed his head off and he walked proud. He knew everyone was laughing at his shorts and he loved it. And that’s what Gary was like, he’d do anything for a laugh.”
A celebration of Gary’s life will be held Saturday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.