The downtown core has lost a principle figure of the community. David Irwin, more commonly known as “the pencil guy,” would give out pens and pencils near Brown Bros Property management at View and Blanshard Streets, and have friendly conversations with anyone stopping by.
While Irwin always appeared happy and kind, many people didn’t know of his back story. As a part of a spring appeal project with Pacifica Housing, where Irwin lived at their Wilson’s Walk Building, he shared his story with staff. It is now posted onto a lamp post on the corner where he used to hang out.
“I grew up in a loving family in James bay with my parents and grandparents being in the same home,” his story reads. “We were rich in love and I feel like I was really blessed. I became an owner of a successful bus company, and later I met my beautiful wife and had a son.”
But then, Irwin’s life was struck with tragedy. One day while he was working, his wife and son were killed by a drunk driver.
“The death of my family sent me into a downward spiral. Me and Jack Daniels became very good friends,” he said, “I couldn’t work and I couldn’t drive… I hurt so much. All I could think of was that I wanted to be with my wife and child.”
Irwin eventually used up all the savings he had, and began to live on the streets.
|David Irwin “The pencil guy” is being remembered with a small memorial at Blanshard and View Streets. Nicole Crescenzi/VICTORIA NEWS|
He struggled for awhile, but had a life-altering moment when he woke up one morning in a gutter.
“There was a voice saying ‘David, wake up! Open your eyes! Take a look at yourself!’” he said. “I looked at myself, I was filthy from head to toe. I stopped drinking that day and haven’t touched a drop again.”
David stayed sober, but didn’t know where to live or what to do, so he started to give out pencils on the street, earning his nickname, “the pencil guy.”
Shortly after he started doing this, he was approached by staff from Pacifica Housing and they were able to find him an apartment.
Harrison Ellis, acting manager of fund development and communications at Pacifica Housing, says he remembers talking to Irwin pretty frequently.
“He was always just really sweet and friendly. When we spoke last he still had a sense of humour and seemed optimistic and positive despite the circumstances,” Ellis said. “The Pacifica family will miss him!”
Ellis said the last time he had spoken with Irwin was a few weeks ago, when he told him some bad news.
“He told me that he had cancer, and that he had just gotten out of the hospital,” Ellis said.
Shortly after, Irwin passed away. Ellis said he didn’t know if he had died in hospital or if there had already been a funeral service.
Pacifica staff went down to Blanshard and View Streets to put up a small memorial in Irwin’s honour that shared his story. Since it was erected, many people have stopped and remembered the pencil guy and left notes on his memorial.
On passerby named Christina, who only wanted to give her first name, said she remembered him well.
“I remember seeing him almost every day there, he really like to say hi to my dog, he said hi to everyone,”she said. “I just remember he was a friendly guy, he really liked to talk to people.”
On our Facebook Post, many people posted condolences and memories about Irwin:
No funeral has been announced, but his memorial is still up at Blanshard and View.
To learn more about Pacifica Housing, you can visit PacificaHousing.ca