Tooker Gomberg – A Tribute, by Peter Jansen

Read aloud at Edmonton Earth Day Festival, April 22, 2004.

We have known him as a friend. We have watched him and been inspired by his passion and electric personality. He was both eloquent and humble, constantly trying to improve the human condition and, more importantly, the condition of planet earth. Ted Goldberg, the President of Earth Day Canada, described Tooker as being without question the most sophisticated and effective grass roots activist he had ever seen.

Tooker’s methods of drawing attention to an issue were sometimes a little unorthodox, and occasionally the media focus would appear to be more on the method and less on the issue, but we should remember that it was he who put himself on the line, while most of us watched from the sidelines.

Look around this festival – Tooker is everywhere. The bicycle parking lot is run by Edmonton Bicycle Commuters, inspired by Tooker Gomberg. The overnight crew for this festival is provided by Eco-City, started by Tooker Gomberg. Edmonton has the most sophisticated composting facility in North America, thanks largely to Tooker Gomberg.

His campaign for Mayor in Toronto was nothing short of brilliant, as many of us saw at the Citadel Theatre last Thursday when we re-lived the TV and personal footage of that campaign (as a result of which he came 2nd, with over 50,000 votes), and his cycling trip (some trip!) with Angela through the Far East to draw Western attention to the bicycle as a viable means for transportation was incredible. The list goes on…

From my personal perspective as organizer of this Festival for many years, Tooker and Angela are the only people who would phone after the event – every year without fail – say ‘thank you for doing it’ and discuss the event in the most supportive way possible, which I will never, ever forget.

The day we lost him was coincidentally the day that Mary and I did our first performance of a new program, “Planet Kindness”, which we are starting to take into elementary schools, and Tooker will be with us at every presentation.

I have had lengthy discussions with Earth Day Canada, and am pleased to announce that the new “Hometown Heroes” award is to be renamed the Tooker Gomberg Award for Excellence – in perpetuity, which means forever!! I want some student in 20 years time who is nominated for this to be able to ask who Tooker was – go to the awards website, or whatever unthinkable means of communication we have then, find out about Tooker and be ever more inspired. We tried to do this for this year but everything had already been printed for the awards ceremony, and the last thing Tooker would have wanted was for it to be wasted.

The torch he carried was huge – maybe if every one of us carries a part of it, we can keep it as high as he did.