COLUMN: ‘Get out of bed, get dressed and face the day’

If you have lived in Coquitlam or driven down Riverside Drive in Port Coquitlam, you probably saw my dad over the years. His name was Vern Jago.

Maybe he was chopping wood when you noticed him or mowing the lawn on a hot summer day.

Perhaps you saw him out there in the cold, digging out after a snowfall, and couldn’t believe the guy in the wheelchair was shovelling snow down our driveway and to the end of the block.

My father was a paraplegic and he was the most determined and hardworking man I have known.

What you couldn’t have known was that he was in severe pain every day of the last 38 years since, as a seasoned logger and pile driver, he had a terrible industrial accident while pile driving in August 1975.

There were many changes in our family over the next year as we had to adjust, too. But dealing with those changes made us all strong. So many of his family and friends encouraged Dad to keep up his spirits and they kept him motivated.

And then, another life changing moment — a year after the first — in the summer of 1976. He was watching his friends unloading and chopping wood. One friend gave him an ax and the rest is history. He just kept on going.

He never complained and this awful fate never held him back. Dad’s motto was:  “Get out of bed, get dressed and face the day.” It was as simple as that and it worked. You can be certain there was no such thing as a sick day in our house.

Dad was special, but he didn’t think so. Mike McCardell, the TV storyteller, asked Dad twice to be the subject of one of his profiles but he turned him down both times, saying he was just like any other man.

But we knew better.

Dad was strong and independent. He gave you pause to consider all of the possibilities. He was tough —  “Jago tough,” we call it  — and his pride about who he was shone through. He taught us a solid work ethic and to always be proud of our job and to do it well.

Many people said he was amazing, and I would agree. He appreciated all the people who would stop and offer help. He got a kick out of hearing about women going home and getting their lazy husbands and teenagers off the couch and outside to work.

Dad roared with laughter when he heard about a young paraplegic being told that if my dad could do it, he could, too. He inspired our family and people in his community to do make the best out of circumstances and to take our best shot.

Dad was particularly touched when two little girls wrote him a sweet note and gave him new work gloves.

I am sure there are a lot of people wondering where he is. Vern Jago passed away Jan. 19. He was 77 years old.

I will miss seeing him every day as I drive by the family home. So will many others. With his big wave, the man in the wheelchair always put a smile on my face and a special beat in my heart. I am so proud to say, “That’s my dad.”


Amanda Straith is a Port Coquitlam resident.



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