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John Hickey left a mark on Labrador, colleagues say

Mayor John Hickey
John Hickey - Submitted

John Hickey, 62, died Dec. 14 after suffering a gunshot wound Dec. 9 while checking his traps alone. Hickey, mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, former MHA and cabinet minister, was a force in Labrador politics and the province as a whole. Once the news of his passing hit the media condolences began to pour in from all quarters.

Perry Trimper, current MHA for Lake Melville, was in the hospital in Happy Valley-Goose Bay with Hickey the night of the shooting.

“The flags are all at half-mast here as I drive around, what a huge loss,” Trimper told the Labradorian in an interview. “After what he went through Saturday night, with the close calls and overcoming everything we were hoping, we were all hoping, that it was all behind him. But he was battling ever since and unfortunately lost.”

Trimper said he had known Hickey for 30 years and had great respect for him. He said the community can reflect upon the strength of will it took for Hickey to get himself to help after he was accidentally shot in the face.

“We can appreciate that inner spirit and will,” he said. “It’s a big loss for Labrador.”

“The people of my community of Sheshatshiu had a lot of respect for John, as he did his best to represent our interests, and went out of his way to advocate for our culture.” — Eugene Hart, chief of Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation

Wally Andersen served with Hickey on council in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the 1990’s and with him in the House of Assembly (on different sides) before the current stint on council. Andersen, now the acting mayor, said what he remembers most about Hickey is that he was a strong advocate for Labrador, a fighter and a man who cared.

“John could be loud, he could be stern, but underneath all that was a man with a soft heart,” Andersen said. “Maybe not a lot of people got to know John well enough to know that he had a very soft heart, I got to know him over the years and that’s one thing that I can tell people. He was a leader for Labrador; it’s a tremendous loss to our society and the whole province.”

Andersen said to him it always seemed Hickey was in politics to help others, not for the limelight. He said even though him and Hickey fought and argued over the years he would give anything to do it all over again.

Labrador MP Yvonne Jones also spoke regarding Hickey’s death, calling him “a true champion for Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a loyal and proud Labradorian who fought hard on many fronts for ‎the people of Labrador.”

Jones said she enjoyed working with Hickey and was excited to have him back on council.

“John had a great vision for getting work done, he never focused on obstacles, only solutions, and that's what I admired and loved about working with him, it was always about getting the job done.”

She offered her condolences to the family and said Labrador mourns with them.

Eugene Hart, chief of Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, agreed that Labrador mourns over the passing of Hickey.

Hart said Labrador has lost one of its favourite sons and one of its greatest fighters, that Hickey did a lot of work for the people of Labrador in both his role as the mayor of one of its largest towns, and during his time in provincial politics.

“The people of my community of Sheshatshiu had a lot of respect for John, as he did his best to represent our interests, and went out of his way to advocate for our culture.”

Hart said there is probably no one out there that can truly fill Hickey’s shoes and he was truly looking forward to working with him to bring all the communities of Lake Melville together. 

“I know we are all filled with sorrow today, but I think we should take inspiration from John and continue the fight for Labrador that he started.”

Former premiers speak

While in provincial politics, Hickey served under two premiers, Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale. The Labradorian spoke to Dunderdale shortly after the news broke and she said she had been thinking about Hickey, hoping he would pull through. She echoed sentiments that Hickey was in politics for the right reasons.

“You couldn’t think about John Hickey and not think about Labrador,” she said. “It wasn’t just his home, it was his passion. He lived it, he breathed it. I wasn’t surprised when he became a municipal politician again, once he stepped away from provincial politics. It was just who he was. I never got the sense he was driven by politics generally, he was driven by Labrador.”

Dunderdale said sometimes, back when he was in cabinet, they would joke about it how it didn’t matter what the conversation was, it didn’t matter what the topic was, if Hickey was in the room there was going to be part of that conversation particular to Labrador.

Danny Williams issued a statement following the news, saying he will always remember John as a true advocate for others, and was honoured to have worked alongside him in public life.

“Rarely have I met an individual so dedicated and passionate in representing the people he served,” Williams said. “Labradorians will probably never fully know the enormous contribution that he made on their behalf. He was not only a colleague, but also a good friend. He was hard-working, loyal and kind-hearted. He will be greatly missed and I wish his family my deepest condolences during this difficult time."

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