Ian died peacefully Saturday April 5th on a rainy Vancouver afternoon, at the age of 58.
Diagnosed with chordoma twelve years ago, he fought the rare cancer with vim and vigour, flare and élan. That chordoma affects one in a million was not surprising given that Ian was exactly that.
A man who devoted his life to making life better for people, Ian worked in progressive politics for 35 years. He was one of the most brilliant opinion and opposition research strategists in British Columbia, if not the country. At the end of his career, he served proudly as BCNDP leader Carole James’ Chief of Staff, and he became an influential blogger once his health prevented him from continuing in that capacity.
Through it all, Ian was gentle and humble, rare qualities in political life. If at times in despair, he was never cynical. He believed that goodness could win – that equality, decency and generosity truly can prevail over greed and indifference.
Ian loved life with every ounce of his being. His curiosity, expansive range of enthusiasms, and appreciation of beauty in all its forms were infectious. More than anything, Ian delighted in friendship and the love of those around him.
Ian leaves behind his husband, Paul Degenstein, who learned so much from him about life and love. He leaves his children – Jordan, Shamus (Megan) and Alexis (Garrett) – who he cherished and loved with a full and hopeful heart. He was thrilled to see the two eldest enter the family business and the youngest marry the man of her dreams.
Ian also leaves his former wife of many years and mother of his children, Jane Welton, and her partner Dave Connell. Ian deeply loved his brothers and sister – Garth, Alex and Catherine – with whom he shared the incredible journey of life. Predeceased many years ago by his never-forgotten mother, Joan, he leaves his proud father, Ron, his father’s wife Kay, as well as two mothers-in-law, Lillian Degenstein and Mavis Welton, who loved him as their own. He will be missed by a gaggle of in-laws and nieces and nephews, all of whom thought he was the cat’s pajamas.
Ian’s gift for friendship was extraordinary. He leaves such a rich assortment of people who loved him – friends who carried each other through the sorrows and joys of each other’s lives. Thank you to the hundreds who have reached out and shared their stories since Ian’s death.
Profound thanks to the many extraordinary doctors, nurses and health care workers who helped extend Ian’s life far beyond expectations. Particular thanks to those who cared for Ian in his final months: his home care nurse, Selina Pope and the Three Bridges team, home care aides Grace, Imelda, and Irma, friend John Young, counselor Patricia Crowe, Dr. Stephen Kurdyak, staff at VGH, and Dr. Pippa Hawley and the entire palliative pain team at the BC Cancer Agency. We learned so much from each of them about what kindness is and how much it can achieve.
A celebration of Ian’s life will be held in Vancouver at the Museum of Anthropology, UBC, on Wednesday, April 23rd. The program will start at 6:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Stephen Lewis Foundation, carry on Ian’s fight for a better world, and live every day with joy.
If you would like to make a donation in Ian’s memory, the Stephen Lewis Foundation is his beneficiary of choice, to support its work with community-level organizations which are turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa by providing care and support to women, orphaned children, grandmothers and people living with HIV and AIDS. You can donate online here. Choose “Tribute – In Memory”, fill in your donation details, then on the next screen enter Ian’s name when prompted.