Dear friends, I had a call from Art's daughter Lisa this morning to tell me that Art passed away peacefully last night. While we all knew he was in poor health, the news of his passing came as a shock for me as I am sure it will for many others.
Art and I had been working on another row house project in West Vancouver and I spoke with him at 6:30 last evening. He was up and about, cleaning up files and throwing old documents away. When I told him to keep his papers for his book, he reminded me that much of what was important to him was on his blog. You can find his years of writing at http://www.cowierowhouse.ca/
I first met Art 35 years ago, and have always marvelled at his incredibly diverse interests and accomplishments and enthusiasm for life. He was a renaissance man, and always slightly ahead of his time.
For those who didn't know, until the past year, Art was very active and certainly didn't look his 74 years until an accident when he hit his head and fell in his crawl space. He then started to stoop over, but was still very involved in various projects including a three unit 'fee-simple' row house development on Cambie Street at 33rd. This dream project had been a long time coming, and after a few aborted attempts, was finally nearing completion. He was planning to move in early next year.
However, immediately after a wonderful 75th birthday party at one of his daughters' home, he was checked into hospital and diagnosed with ALS. He went downhill very quickly. I saw him in the hospital a few times, and in our last meeting, he asked me to write a small book on fee-simple row housing and his efforts to make it a viable housing choice in Vancouver. I will finish the book as soon as his project is completed.
One of the challenges building his project was the fact that for whatever reasons, the Vancouver Law Department had reservations about registering party wall agreements on title. This is despite the fact this form of housing is common in most other parts of Canada and around the world. Ironically, in recent weeks, Councillor Suzanne Anton, a long-time friend and colleague had been in contact with the city and province to accelerate legislation facilitating party wall agreements in BC. I am sure Premier Gordon Campbell will help to move this along since he knew Cowie for many many years. In fact, it was Cowie who gave up his legislative seat to allow Gordon to run provincially.
In a note I received today, our mutual friend Bob Ransford had this to say about Art:
"Art's ideas were vital, his interests many and diverse and his persistence admirable. Art was motivated entirely by a desire to do good, to be innovative and to serve because he cared about this place we call our community."
My thoughts are with his wife Cathy, his daughters Lisa and Sharon and step-daughter Corrie, and the rest of his family. I will keep readers apprised of details regarding a memorial service.