Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, Eileen Evans would hop on her bicycle, ride to Government House and put on her gardening gloves.
The 73-year-old was a faithful volunteer with the Friends of Government House Gardens Society, claiming the title of coordinator for the rock and alpine garden on the property’s southwest corner.
Known for putting in long hours, Evans took pride in making sure the garden remained pristine. So when she failed to show up for her shift on Tuesday morning, her colleagues knew something was wrong.
“Everyone was wondering, where is she? She was one of the very first to be there in the morning,” said Nairn Hollot, gardening volunteers coordinator. “It was very unexpected.”
Shock and sadness soon fell over the volunteers as they learned later that morning Evans had been struck and killed by a truck in Victoria’s Chinatown.
The collision occurred around 8:30 a.m. on March 29 when a five-tonne delivery truck was turning right from Government Street onto Fisgard and collided with Evans on her bike. Emergency crews tried to revive the senior, but she succumbed to her injuries.
The truck driver was making a routine delivery for Max’s Mushrooms to a business in the area. Company owner Max Seelenmayer said the driver is having difficulty coping with the loss and struggling to figure out what went wrong.
“He’s messed up. He’s looking at getting counselling. Not knowing what happened doesn’t help him either,” said Seelenmayer, adding the driver has at least nine to 10 years experience and is an extraordinary person.
“It’s tough. I wasn’t even there, but you start thinking about it and it really messes with your head. I can’t get it out of my mind.”
Hollot didn’t know Evans outside of the gardening circle, but knew she was involved in a number of activities, including teaching tai chi. Evans was a hard worker with a sense of humour who was easy to get along with. She added.
“She was always cheerful and interested in having a conversation,” said Hollot, noting the gardens have about 240 volunteers. Evans was usually one of the last to leave.
“She was very much liked and respected by all her fellow volunteers. It’s been very difficult for us. We’re going to miss her very much.”
The garden society is in discussions about creating a memorial in honour of Evans at Government House. The rock and alpine garden she worked in features plants from mountainous areas of the world. Most of the plants were started from seed.