By Gordon Lambie
Many members of the Lennoxville community are in mourning this week with the passing of Eric Mackeage.
Often in the pages of The Record in recent years for his elaborate Christmas decorations, Mackeage was well known in the community for his work with the Lennoxville Volunteer Firefighters and for playing a key role in a variety of local fundraisers, generally involving hockey. He was also the winner of the 2014 Lennoxville Outstanding Achievement Award for heroism for the part he played in rescuing two victims of an ATV accident in august of that year.
“From the church to the school to the hockey arena, he was just always there,” said Linda Hoy, explaining that Mackeage has been a family friend almost as long as she can remember. “He and my younger brothers were playing hockey together at age five.”
Hoy remembered Mackeage as the kind of quiet person that just did what he had to when he had to, not because he was seeking some kind of recognition, but just because it was the right thing to do.
“He did so much for all of us, and the community really rallied around that when he got sick,” she said.
Examples of the community working to support Mackeage and his family range from a 2018 flash mob in the Provigo parking lot for his birthday, to a secret plan to hold the charity hockey tournament he usually organizes on the street in front of his house just this past January.
“The smile never left him,” Hoy said, sharing that Mackeage’s dedication through his illness has served as an inspiration to her brother in his own fight with cancer.
“He inspired everybody,” she said.“He was just a part of everything.”
“He’s going to be missed that’s for darn sure,” said François Gilbert. “He was my best friend.”
Gilbert described Mackeage as a very kind and generous man who loved life and said that the comments on a video tribute that he shared on his personal Facebook Page earlier this week speak for themselves about the kind of an impact that Mackeage had on everyone around him.
“He was very liked by the community,” he said.
Gilbert and Hoy both spoke of the important role that family played in their friend’s life, and pointed to him as someone who was never looking to be in the spotlight, even if it sometimes found him anyway.
“There’s a lot of good lessons to be taken from the way he lived his life,” Gilbert said. “Be kind to others and always be ready to help them. Work hard and be honest. Those are the big guidelines he lived his life trough, and he’s left a beautiful legacy for his children to look up to.”
“Any person who could say they lived their life the way Eric did, they would have a good life,” he added.
Lennoxville Borough President Claude Charron described Mackeage’s death as a big loss for the community as a whole, but said that he feels it on a personal level as well.
“He saved my son,” Charron said, explaining that his son was in a car accident about seven years ago, and Mackeage was on the scene to respond. The experience, he said, brought the work of firefighters and first responders home to him in a very big way.
“These people hear that alarm, they get up and they go,” he said, expressing regret that there isn’t more ability to get together right now in person to mark the loss.
“It’s a big deal” he said.
For Gilbert, the biggest lesson he learned from his friend was one of not taking life for granted.
“We have to enjoy life every day, and we hear this often, but when it’s your buddy, it hits close to home,” he said. “He has lived life to the fullest, not wasting a day, not wasting a minute, always making sure to tell everyone how much he cared about them. I think there’s a big lesson for all of us to learn there.”