Peter Verin wouldn’t like it.
He wouldn’t like the bench, he wouldn’t like his name on it, and he would definitely cringe at the title “Our Philosopher King.”
“This wasn’t just about Peter, this was about the people who loved Peter,” said Doreen Lowres, who knew Verin well from their interactions outside her B-Sharp Hair Design at 3960 Quadra St.
“We’re doing it out of respect – you touched a lot of lives there, buddy. You can’t do this to all these people and not expect them to thank you and have fond memories.”
A gathering is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday to commemorate the new bench, next to the Bottle Depot on Quadra Street, and to once again celebrate Verin’s impact on the community.
The beloved Verin, who lived his final years along the Lochside Trail in the Quadra/McKenzie area, died in hospital on Jan. 9, a day before he would have turned 72. He took his charming philosopher ways with him, but details of his mysterious personal life, which he kept a secret, have since emerged. His death shone a light on the “Shopping Cart Philosopher’s” broad and diverse social network.
Verin was social, he was interesting, but above all else he was humble. He caught a lot of people off guard with his quick wit, intelligence and his passion for current news juxtaposed with his decision not only to live on the streets, but to refuse charity from most.
By the time of the Jan. 19 memorial for Verin (organized by Reverend Allen Tysick), Lowres and Denise Peters, who also works in the 3960 Quadra building, had raised $500 towards a plaque.
But then the money rolled in.
“One lady came in crying, and told me she used to cook food for him,” Lowres said. “Others gave me $200, and $50, and it added up.”
When Lowres first interacted with Verin, she admits she was a little testy with his shopping carts being parked next to her new car.
“I used to see people pull up in the parking lot and I assumed they were leaving garbage in his cart, but what I found out was they were leaving things for him, food, clothes, shoes. I learned to respect him, he was happy doing what he wanted to do. I was sorry for him at the beginning, but once you got to know him, you realized he’s happy, and you changed your attitude about him.”
Lowres said she collected $900 the day of the memorial.
“It came in by email and more drop-offs at the collection box in B-Sharp,” Lowres said.
Even members of the street community who knew Verin wanted to give, which Lowres found difficult to accept.
With so many donations, Lowres and Peters considered a commemorative bench instead, and word eventually reached Saanich’s Kerry Mann.
The owner-operator of Mortimer’s Monuments in Victoria offered and built the granite bench for cost, which would have otherwise cost $2,300.
“I didn’t know Peter [personally] but I had seen him around Saanich Centre, I knew of him,” Mann said. “When I saw they were looking for a bench, I said that’s what we do. I think it’s good to be able to give back to the community.”
Mann, a former pro on the Canadian PGA tour, has owned the 140-year-old Mortimer’s Monuments since 2005 (his parents bought the company in 1977). Their granite originally came from Pender Island though the granite in the Verin bench is from overseas.
“It should last eons and will be pinned to the concrete,” said Mann.
The script was hand-blasted through a stencil and while the bench will last longer than we will, the name could be cleaned with a soft bristle brush and water every year or two. It reads “Peter Verin, 1945 to 2017, Our Philosopher King, You touched all our hearts. We were blessed to know you.”
So far the fundraiser has totalled $3,400 which will go towards the bench and its installation as well as some landscaping. The Borden family has given their permission to station the bench on the edge of the property along the Lochside Trail.
All are welcome and those who wish may share their stories about Verin at the June 11 commemoration, 2 p.m. by the Bottle Depot on Quadra. Donations are still being accepted and will go to either Our Place or the Dandelion Society.
For more information, contact Doreen Lowres at B-Sharp Hair Design, 250-477-1553.