Pete Seigo, just ‘Pete’ to many, ‘Mr. Wendal’ to others, passed away in Ridge Meadows Hospital on Friday.
Pete was a well-known, long-time homeless person in Maple Ridge, an often quiet man with a long beard who in later years lost parts of his feet to frostbite.
The stories of Pete are countless.
Those who grew up around him have said Pete suffered from mental illness, and that up until his passing was residing at Beckman House, which supports people living with mental health challenges.
Most knew Pete only to see him, at a McDonald’s restaurant, or outside a gas station, 7-Eleven or Chevron. He was found outside a liquor store one particularly cold winter about a decade ago or more, and the frostbite was so severe that parts of his feet had to be amputated.
He could be seen, wearing prosthetics, pushing his wheelchair along Laity Street in the years after, when he lived at a nearby mobile home park.
But mostly he was seen sitting in his chair at various spots.
Legions of people would see Pete, say ‘hi,’ and offer to buy him a coffee, or a sandwich, a cigar.
He would accept and mumble a ‘thanks.’
No one said he begged. Most appreciated that he didn’t.
Salvation Army staff were familiar with Pete in past years, and said he wouldn’t stay there. He would take blankets and leave, head for the outdoors.
He had his problems.
But in his passing, few if any such accounts surfaced. Most all who commented on his passing expressed sadness and condolences, love and compassion. They said he was kind, that he asked not to be judged.
All that in Maple Ridge, where homelessness, more specifically camps for such – first on Cliff Avenue, now 223rd Street – and issues over how and where to house their residents, or not, has been the source of much division in the community, along with associated drug use and thefts, and promises to dominate discussion in the upcoming municipal election.
Some have suggested starting a fundraising campaign to place a bronze plaque at Pete’s favourite place.
Others have suggested making his wheelchair a monument there.
Another wanted the city to pay for his memorial service or a bench in his honour.
For certain, he has become a symbol, a figure that this community has rallied around.
Pete has shown that Maple Ridge has a heart. The people here do care about others, including those less fortunate, or coping with mental illness.
To some long-time residents here, Pete was the first and only homeless person they knew. He didn’t make demands. He didn’t speak in front of TV cameras. He didn’t have his own social media accounts.
He was one of them, someone raised here, someone they were familiar with. Parents who knew Pete from years ago introduced their children to him.
So the community, in its own, simple way, tried to take care of him, look out for him. They tried to make him feel like he mattered.
And now the community misses him.
Rest in peace, Pete.
And thank you.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News