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January 16, 2011

Canadian artist pays tribute to medics killed in crash

By Kevin Drews
The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — One of British Columbia's best-known artists is dedicating a print to two paramedics killed when their ambulance jumped a small retaining barrier and crashed into a lake on the west coast of Vancouver Island last fall.

Roy Henry Vickers will release his print, Frank Island, at the Eagle Aerie Gallery in Tofino, in honour of Jo-Ann Fuller, 59, and 65-year-old Ivan Polivka.

The unveiling will take place Jan. 22 and will include the BC Ambulance Service honour guard and a discussion of the print by Vickers.

Vickers, who once worked on ambulance duty in Saanich, B.C., described the print in a media statement.

''The autumn sunset over Frank Island with geese flying south heralds a change of seasons, not only for the environment, but also in the lives of people,'' he said. ''The faces of male and female represent two loved ones who left this world.''

Fuller and Polivka died early Oct. 19, 2010, while on their way to Tofino from a hospital in Port Alberni.

Last November, about 2,500 people attended their memorial, including police officers, firefighters and military personnel from across Canada and Washington state.

Fuller had been a paramedic for 23 years, and Polivka, who started with the service 14 years ago, was preparing to retire in the Yukon.

Vickers said he knew Fuller and Polivka.

Fuller was a strong supporter of his gallery, attended story-telling events and new releases, and had a ''quiet way of encouraging me as both an artist and member of the community of Tofino,'' he said.

Vickers said Polivka was a quiet man who lived on Chesterman Beach and often slept under the stars on Frank Island with his sleeping bag.

Frank Island is located on Chesterman Beach, a short walk from Polivka's home, and is the final resting place to half of his ashes. The other half will be laid to rest at Lake Labarge, near Whitehorse, as soon as the weather improves.

''It is intended to bring attention to the dedication of paramedics who work to save lives,'' Vickers said.

''My prayer with this memorial print is for the families of these two beautiful people. May the families know peace in a time of sorrow.''

Keith Jamieson, a friend and co-worker of Fuller and Polivka, said he thinks his friends would find Vickers' efforts very touching.

Jennifer Steven, director of the Eagle Aerie Gallery, said the prints are now drying.

''We've never done anything like this before,'' she said.

Steven said there will be 136 prints made — the number of Tofino ambulance station 136. She said the ambulance station will receive No. 136.

She said Vickers will also donate prints to Brian Fuller, Jo-Ann's husband, and Frank Webber, Ivan's stepson.

They will also be available for sale to the public.

Steven said Vickers had wanted to do a print focused on Frank Island for some time, now.

''He thought it would be a great way to pay tribute to awesome people.''

Copyright 2011 The Canadian Press

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