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FORT NELSON, B.C. – Fort Nelson is currently mourning the loss of Mike Irwin, who had been maintaining the rec centre since 2004.

The Northern Rockies Regional Recreation Department created a memorial post for Mike Irwin on Wednesday after losing his battle to cancer.

Mayor Gary Foster expressed gratitude for Irwin’s dedication to the community and says he was a remarkable man in the face of adversity.

“We’re all going to miss Mike a lot. He always had a kind word for everybody, and it’s just a tragedy, you don’t want to lose any employee. For what he had put in and the things he’d done, he was a remarkable guy,” said Foster. “He always had a friendly word, just an all-around great guy.”

Scott Barrie, chief administrative officer for the municipality, called Irwin a pillar of the community, and had kept in touch with him up until his passing after several cancer treatments in Prince George.

“A testament to Mike’s determination and positive attitude was how positive he was when we talked that day. No matter what he endured, he was always a pillar of strength,” said Barrie. “I wish I had half the strength and courage that he had – just an exceptional individual who will be dearly missed.”

Irwin lost a portion of his right lung after being diagnosed with bronchiectasis in 2010, but health issues never held him back as Irwin continued to run marathons to raise charity funds for the BC Lung Association. His love of travel saw him trek across the globe with visits to Mexico, Australia, Austria, and beyond for skiing and skydiving adventures.

“He really got a new lease on life after that,” said Jonathan Roberts, a facility maintenance technician who met Irwin in 2004 when Irwin began working at the rec centre. “He was such a social guy and really made himself the face of the centre.”

His colleagues say ” he had a soft spot for the youth” and would go out of his way to ensure the outdoor rink was cleared after a snowy day.

Many residents have shared their memories of Irwin online, with most talking about his positive attitude and kindness.

One resident said, “he reminded us all the time that life is too short and to make the most of it. When we first met, he told us his story and how to never give up, that you can do anything you set your mind to. He was an amazing man and will be missed.”

The rec department encourages the community to share their memories and photos of Irwin on their post or by emailing rec@northernrockies.ca.

“He lived a remarkable life and will truly be missed both by those he worked with and the community he served every day.”

With files from Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News

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