Remembering Kevin Figley – Community Loses an “Unfailing Source of Ideas, Laughter, and Joy”

Theresa Wallace

Kevin Figley passed away suddenly at home on June 1st from a non-COVIDrelated cause. He was 65 years old.

The Belgrave Road resident adored is lifelong partner, Peggy Ledden and was devoted to their sons Sean and Conor. He deeply enjoyed the company of his siblings, including his twin brother, and his extended family, but he had a big heart so there was plenty of love and time left over for his wider community. “Kevin was really the outgoing guy in our family,” says his wife Peggy. “He loved to walk or ride around the neighbourhood, stopping to chat, and he knew everyone.”

Occasionally Kevin suggested they sell their house because they planned to spend their retirement years travelling. “I always resisted. I love this neighbourhood,” recalls Peggy. “The sense of comfort and caring, well, you just can’t put a price on that.

“A couple of days after Kevin died, I was driven to an appointment by my son. As we came home and turned the corner onto Belgrave, I saw the entire neighbourhood gathered in the street in front of our house, with a huge flower arrangement and beautiful handmade card. I was overwhelmed. We all stood around chatting for a while, and I could just feel Kevin up there saying, ‘Okay, okay, I’m glad we didn’t move!’ He would have been the first to regret it if we had.”

Back in 1996, Kevin Figley won the Brantwood Park rink inaugural Hoser of the Year award. He is pictured here on the left along with Don Pease, the rink coordinator (centre), and Don McCanse, co-winner of the award that year (right). Photo by John Dance

Back in 1996, Kevin Figley won the Brantwood Park rink inaugural Hoser of the Year award. He is pictured here on the left along with Don Pease, the rink coordinator (centre), and Don McCanse, co-winner of the award that year (right). Photo by John Dance

Kevin was co-winner of the inaugural Hoser of the Year award for the Brantwood Park rink in 1996. He shared this award with Don McCanse, longtime rink coordinator of dozens of volunteers who, winter after winter, with sometimes frozen mittens, would drag the heavy hose around the rink to create the gift of a fresh sheet of ice for skaters.

Don Pease, founding Brantwood rink coordinator, also got to know Kevin well. At the small online funeral gathering for Kevin—a bigger celebration of his life will be held when circumstances allow—Kevin’s son Sean incorporated into his eulogy this excerpt from the note Don and Carol-Anne Pease included in their sympathy card to the family: “Our community has lost a wonderful person—so very joyful and so giving and generous to others. The Kevin I knew from our years working together at the Brantwood rink was an unfailing source of ideas, laughter, and joy. A rare person Kevin was – the most responsible of bighearted adults while still bursting with the playfulness, mischief and simple joy in the moment that most of us forget to bring along from childhood.”

Kevin coached Glebe Little League. His sons also played hockey at Brewer Arena. Paula Clark, whose late husband Tony was president of the Ottawa Centre minor hockey association, recalls that, “Kevin became a source of rationality and calm during the four years Tony was president. Tony valued Kevin’s support with hockey issues and also enjoyed Kevin’s fun-loving wit.”

When no one could be found to succeed Tony as president, Kevin took on the demanding job of making sure hundreds of children had a good time and developed their hockey skills. Part of this job involved endless hours on the phone. “But it was worth it to him,” Peggy notes, “so that the kids could have a good experience.”

When a hockey parent sent Kevin an abusive, irrational complaint, he pulled the note out of his pocket one day at the arena and read it to me in theatrical tones without revealing or hinting at the identity of the sender. Kevin was a natural-born storyteller with an appreciation of the absurd: his irreverent performance was hilariously funny, and his mockery of the letter and the letter writer was well-deserved.

In his early 50s, Kevin took up cycling. He bought a road bike and kept track of how many hundreds and thousands of kilometres he rode during biking season. Each summer he did the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada fundraising bike ride from Ottawa to Cornwall. The day before he died, he went for a 60-kilometre ride.

A city of Ottawa employee for most of his career, Kevin retired two years ago. After that, he became something of the neighbourhood handyperson. “I would often answer the door to find one of the neighbours there, asking if Kevin could look at this or that appliance, light, plumbing fixture or whatever,” explains Peggy. “He would then take on the repair project and not give up until the broken item was fixed. Now I guess someone else will have to step up into that role.”

Kevin, you will be greatly missed.

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