Nanaimo advocate Serge Vaillancourt, who worked to bring awareness to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis through his own struggle with the disease, died Tuesday.
Vaillancourt, 66, died at around 11 a.m. Tuesday in the palliative care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, surrounded by family, after a two-year battle with ALS.
The Nanaimo resident, a father of three and former employee with Canadian Forest Products, was a longtime advocate for several causes including organ donation and the ALS Society of B.C. He was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2012 and this year set out to help the society and its patients by sharing his journey with the disease. He was also presented with the ALS Society of B.C. Exceptional Public Awareness Award last April.
In an e-mail to the News Bulletin, Jamie Jackson, director of patient services for the ALS Society of B.C., called Vaillancourt an extraordinary man.
“Throughout his journey with this disease, Serge impacted many people with his optimism, tenacity and determination to raise funds and awareness about ALS in order to help find a cure,” she wrote.
“In his community of Nanaimo he reached out to many people to be a voice for the voiceless. His perseverance and positive attitude helped him make strong connections with people near and far.
“From everyone here at ALS Society of B.C., we have lost a wonderful man, advocate and leader.”
Nicky Vaillancourt, his wife of more than two decades, said she believes Serge made a positive difference in many people’s lives by raising awareness for organ donation and ALS.
“He was always putting himself out there to help others and you know, he was the most unselfish person there was,” she said.
In his last days, he was fighting to see property transfer tax eliminated for people who are forced to move from their homes to accommodate an illness.
Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley, who raised the issue in legislature this November, said he promised Vaillancourt he would pursue the elimination of the property transfer tax and has asked for a meeting with the finance minister.
“I am very sad. My dad passed away form Lou Gehrig’s syndrome as well…and I know first hand how devastating the news of such a diagnosis is, how life changing it is for an entire family, sometimes even a community,” he said. “My dad and my step mom had to move from the house they were living in and buy a house that would accommodate his motorized chair and what not, so they in fact would have benefitted from Serge’s idea had it been in place. I think there are many people who face this kind of struggle…some of the financial burden could be relieved from them.”
Nicky said she would love it to be called Serge’s Bill.
Serge and Nicky had two children, Myles and Ashley. Serge also has a son, Matthew Knee, from a previous relationship. A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date.