Celebration of life held for local man who died saving a dog on frozen North Saskatchewan River

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Friends and family celebrated and remembered the life of Rob White Sunday afternoon at Buena Vista Park, near where died rescuing a stranger’s dog on the frozen North Saskatchewan River in April.

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More than 150 people gathered to share stories, get temporary tattoos of his signature or hearts, see his art, record video messages, and remember the man described as a unique, creative and loving person. The 55-year-old was known for his love of art, music and animals. He was an entrepreneur and scaffolder.

Alliance White, one of his two sons, said he was grateful so many attended because his father’s mission in life was to be there for other people.

While he said it’s impossible to really summarize what his father was like, he was all about love.

“Just unconditional love for himself, for everybody else, no matter what — animals, insects, people, trees, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“His reach is pretty incredible. The amount of people that he’s touched — people I’m not even aware of — and it’s beautiful that they’re coming here, and I’m glad I can hear the stories and memories they have.”

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He said the location of the event was perfect because it was somewhere he can walk around knowing it’s where his father liked to be.

Attendees were encouraged to take one of the hundreds of heart-shaped rocks Rob collected, to paint and give away or hold onto as a way to remember him.

Others wrote messages on a large table cloth, including: “I miss you. Could use your wisdom and guidance right now. Love you dad,” “Thank you for being an exemplary human being,” and thanks for his displays at Candy Cane Lane.

Speaking at the ceremony, Chris Barrett had a message for his best friend: “The most important events, and all of the weirdest, you are everywhere I look.”

(Left to right) Ken Foster, Chris Barrett and Justina Green sing Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage/Eclipse in memory of Robert White during a celebration of life held for the artist, family man and friend at Buena Vista Park in Edmonton, on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak
(Left to right) Ken Foster, Chris Barrett and Justina Green sing Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage/Eclipse in memory of Robert White during a celebration of life held for the artist, family man and friend at Buena Vista Park in Edmonton, on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Rob White played bass in a cover band with Barrett for years, he told Postmedia, and often painted unique backdrops for shows.

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Barrett said his friend was a “sponge of empathy.” He mentored more than 40 young men and teens, and a group of young people in the neighbourhood called him “dad.”

Bretton Norenberg was one of them.

Friends with Rob’s sons, Norenberg was often at the Whites’ house. He said Rob always told guests to make themselves at home, and tried to make them feel comfortable and like part of the family.

His passing has been difficult, but Norenberg said hasn’t heard anyone say they would have done things differently with Rob.

“No one is living with any regrets when it comes to dad. For someone to go like that? That in itself lends a lot of peace of mind,” he said.

“I’ve had my time, my cries, and I felt what I needed to feel … (but now) I’m trying to find what I want: love with my family and friends. And I want to move along and carry him with me, and carry the memory.”

The family plans to create a foundation in his name to honour his life, legacy and love for the community, along with an annual festival-inspired fundraiser.

They also plan on publishing Rob’s 808,000-word novel he worked on for decades.

lboothby@postmedia.com

@laurby

Art rocks made in memory of Robert White are seen during a celebration of life held for the artist, family man and friend at Buena Vista Park in Edmonton, on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak
Art rocks made in memory of Robert White are seen during a celebration of life held for the artist, family man and friend at Buena Vista Park in Edmonton, on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Photo by Ian Kucerak Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

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