Monday, July 08, 2013

Steve MacFarlane - dedicated teacher, BCTF, VDLC and NDP activist - sadly gone at 51

Steve MacFarlane 1961-2013

Steve MacFarlane
I was very saddened to hear late last month that my friend Steve MacFarlane had passed away at just 51 years of age.

Steve was not only a longtime NDP activist in my riding of Vancouver-Point Grey but also my daughter Erin's teacher at Kitsilano Secondary School, where he taught for the last 20 years.

I last saw Steve at an event for NDP candidate David Eby - now MLA - at Joy MacPhail's house on May 8 and had a good chat with him.  That made his sudden passing all the more shocking.

I attended Steve's memorial service on Friday July 5 and learned much more about him through his colleagues and family, even though I knew him for 20 years.  [ You can sign the online memorial guest book here.]

Steve was the epitome of an activist - and a dedicated teacher.

Despite suffering serious health challenges from the diabetes he was first diagnosed with at the age of 8, Steve insisted on continuing to teach.  His brother Andrew said that in fact, teaching gave Steve a reason to battle on against the illness that eventually took his life.

Steve was a BC Teachers Federation staff representative for his fellow teachers at Kits High - in fact, he is still listed on their website today.

And Steve was good at it - sticking up for teachers in their workplace.

He also was a BCTF representative at the Vancouver and District Labour Council.

Steve MacFarlane - centre - on BCTF picket line in 2005
And Steve involved his social studies students in fascinating projects.

His good friend and fellow teacher Shelley Sullivan told the memorial audience that Steve had enlisted 182 of those students in a successful letter writing campaign to get a Vancouver park named after the late MP and MLA Rosemary Brown, the first black Canadian woman elected to a provincial legislature.

And today Rosemary Brown Park can be found at West 11th Avenue and Vine!

Steve was also highly irreverent, always enjoying raising controversial topics with great amusement.

In fact, at a Vancouver-Point Grey all candidates meeting - that Premier Christy Clark skipped - Steve asked if they would support lowering the voting age to 16 to encourage young people to get more involved in democracy.

As Steve told the Georgia Straight after the event, students want to discuss current events:

“They have incredible concerns about the underfunding of public education, and other issues with the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline, and they do have the critical thinking skills,” MacFarlane said then.

Without being unduly political in a memorial, I can say with certainty that Steve was thrilled that David Eby was able to defeat Christy Clark in Vancouver-Point Grey on May 14!

Sadly, Steve suffered greatly from his illness, undergoing more than 10 surgeries and spending much time in hospital.

But his friend Shelley Sullivan said he never complained about his own fate and was always concerned for others despite his difficulties.

Steve's dedication to teaching was so strong that even though on partial disability, he finished his school year at Kitsilano Secondary just weeks before he passed away.

His brother Andrew told me after the service that Steve was the toughest guy he ever met because of the way he dealt with his illness.

My condolences to Steve's parents Jim and Agnes, brothers Andrew and Peter and all his many family, friends and former students.

Steve will always be missed but in our hearts and memories forever.

Steve MacFarlane and faithful dog Jock


Anonymous said...

It's sad that the students and parents did not know that he was on partial disability. He never asked for a break and to be honest, I don't think he got one. I think he was less patient in his last 2 years of teaching and now I have an explanation as to why. I am so grateful that I did not push the issue, now that I see this. I hope that his dog is well cared for and that he family takes pleasure in the legacy that he left.

Unknown said...

He taught me to care about what was going on in our world. I still remember him vividly going through the daily news and getting us involved with daily events. It was my first opportunity at public speaking and taking part in debates. His tomato in the house will always be remembered. Rest in peace.