I remember when I first laid eyes on him. I was the keener in the front row, he the workshop leader. I was awestruck how he could make the rocket science of bicycle repair seem appealing to me. His hair was much longer then, frizzed, and he donned a white lab coat, like a doctor undertaking an operation, tools in hand, assembling a 2-wheeled wonder. We were both smitten. I wondered to myself that night if I might share my life with this beautiful, kind and entertaining man.
The next seventeen years our lives entwined like two vines. He was an ever-faithful husband, gentle, thoughtful, and fun. What a ride we had together. Year after year we described our relationship as one that just kept getting better. How blessed I am to have loved and received the love of my soulmate for a good part of my life.
Did you know Tooker loved animals? I think he related to their vulnerability, and recognized their inherent beauty. He grew up with turtles and hamsters, dogs and cats, birds and fish. At age 12, he gave up eating meat — for good. He was resolute in his convictions, without seeking affirmation or passing judgment. He begged me for a pet in recent years, but I forbade it. We were always on the move (presenting, campaigning, researching, documenting, learning, sharing). Instead he settled for plastic lizards and bugs, and he never missed a chance at putting them under the pillow of a guest, or dropping them in my pocket.
I wonder how many people ever had the pleasure of seeing Tooker juggle. He was playful, skilled, agile. He would often juggle fruit in the grocery store to the delight of kids stuck in shopping carts. That’s how he lived his life, skillfully handling many balls at once, always taking more on, knowing when to drop a ball or toss it to another, never lacking creativity or spunk. He was a hard act to follow. He raised the bar for us all.
Did you ever hear him play harmonica? He played a sweet, mellow tone, melodious, always delightful. When we traveled to far away lands where the language barrier prevented us from relating to local people, Tooker would pull out his harp, and before long every villager within earshot would gather round to be entertained. He was a magnet. Wherever he landed, be it Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax or Hong Kong, community was enriched.
Tooker never thought of himself as spiritual, but he was as ardent and faithful as any member of the clergy. He was guided by ethics of ecology and justice, and he lived and taught them on every hilltop, schoolroom or chamber of power in which he found himself, never missing a beat, never missing an opportunity. The rest of us relied on him to fill the gaps; he rarely let us down. He was a man of faith, faith that we could save ourselves from doom, faith that we could come together as community to make change. He was a champion of the underdog. He lead the way. Many saw him as a visionary. Some called him a prophet.
Did you ever see Tooker’s library? You would have seen how he became an authority on such a vast array of social and ecological issues. Did your ever see him question unjust authority? Although short in stature, he was a giant in courage, bursting with chutzpah.
His more than thirty years of self-education and commitment to a sustainable, peaceful and more just world lead him to see interconnections between issues. He fought the battle against climate change like few others. From cars to tar sands to wars in the gulf, he remained in the trenches. But he did so with sparkle. Renewable energy and the humble bicycle were greenspirational solutions to our global problems, and without doubt time will prove him right.
Tooker’s keen insight and generous spirit touched lives around the world, and in that his life lives on.
In my heart and in my soul I ache for my partner, my lover, my soulmate. I will miss cycling through life with him at my side. I will miss his warm embrace, his tenderness, brilliance, humour, support and sweet smile. May he live on through me and through all of us…
When we married, we rang our bicycle bells in celebration. Today I celebrate and honour Tooker’s life by ringing that same bell. Perhaps next time you hear a bicycle bell you’ll think of him. May he be at peace.
(Rings bicycle bell 3 times.)
March 10, 2004