At 6 p.m. on Jan. 14 this year, Randy Sulyma was driving north on High-way 97 near Chetwynd when he lost control of his truck, crossed the median and slammed head-on into an oncoming truck. He was killed instantly. He was 43. The two passengers in the other vehicle were unharmed.
According to the local RCMP report, the accident was caused by icy roads and poor visibility. Sulyma, who was trying to get to Fort St. John from Fort St. James for a speed-skating competition, got caught in one of the worst snowstorms of the year. His wife, Sandra, and his two children, Joel, 15, and Emily, 12, were waiting for him in Fort St. John. College Grants For Students
Sulyma was one of those people who, to a small town like Fort St. James, was an invaluable member. Smart, well liked, he coached soccer and speed-skating. He loved the North, and loved the field work he did. He had a forestry degree from UBC and a masters in biology from UNBC. He left behind him not only the grief of his family and friends but a large hole in the community. More than 500 people came to his memorial service.
"He loved coaching," Sandra said, "and he made sure the coaches were all certified so the kids had a good experience."
They met, she said, in an alleyway. She was living with her brother in a basement suite in Kitsilano, and Randy lived in another suite across the alley.
One day, she and her brother stepped out to drive to school - Sandra, an agrologist, was taking her degree at UBC at the time - and they found Randy there. His car had broken down. They offered him a ride.
"And the rest," Sandra said, "is history."
She was engulfed in grief at his death. She still is. She sobbed on the phone during the entire interview. But something this week brought her and her children some comfort. It had to do with a name.
It began with a story written by Sun reporter Larry Pynn. In the June 17 edition, Pynn told the story of how Trevor Goward, curator of lichens at UBC, discovered two new species of lichen: one in the Hazel-ton area and one in the Clear-water Valley near Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Scientific protocol dictates that the individual who discovers a new species has the right to name it. In this case, how-ever, Goward decided to auction off the names online.
The proceeds would go to the Ancient Forest Alliance and The Land Conservancy of B.C. The land conservancy was working to create a critical wildlife corridor for southern Wells Gray Provincial Park, and Goward, who loved the area, wanted the corridor preserved.
Randy's aunt, Debbie, happened to read the story. She showed it to Randy's mother, Sylvia, and they decided it would be a nice thing to bid on the Clearwater Valley lichen and have it named after Randy. Randy loved the area himself and camped there often. His area of expertise was in caribou and their diet, particularly lichen. The family began a campaign to raise the bid money.
They sent out emails, and Facebooked, and set up a site to take tax-deductible donations. The Fort St. James news-paper, the Caledonia Courier, sponsored the campaign. Local council donated $500. There were three donations of $2,000 each. In all, Sylvia estimated, there were about 130 separate donations, amounting to a total of $17,900.
"The support up north," Sylvia said, "was phenomenal."
The online auction took place last Thursday. It began at 11 a.m. Bids were to be posted in five-minute intervals. The minimum raise was set at $500.
Sylvia placed the opening bid at $9,900.
At 11: 05, she went online to check. She saw a second bid had been made, and had raised hers by the minimum $500.
Again, a counter bid was made.
The bidding went back and forth all day, climbing in $500 increments, with just the two parties bidding.
"At 4: 50 p.m.," Sylvia said, "I made my last bid. I bid all we had, $17,900. If there had been a counter bid, we would have been done. We had decided beforehand that if we didn't win the auction, the money we raised would go into the bursary fund we had already created in Randy's name."
When Sylvia checked online to see if a counter had been made, she found ... nothing.
The other bidder had given up.
It will be, both Sylvia and Sandra said, a tough Christmas.
"But you know what?" Sylvia said. "You just have to do the positive things to go on. It's tough," (and at this Sylvia began to sob) "but we have a lot of loving family. You know, you just have got to tough it out. But he was a wonderful son, and a wonderful father and a wonderful man. And I'm glad we did this."
It will be his family and friends and all those who loved him who will carry the memory of Randy Sulyma.
It will be the science he loved that will carry the name of Par-melia sulymae.