There are few people who grew up on the Semiahmoo Peninsula or lived within its borders at some point over the past five decades who didn’t know Cyril Avigdor.
Friends and family say the affable man – better known as Sid – had an incredible memory, loved cars and food, doted on his mother, and, among sundry other things, made time for everyone he encountered, regardless of the path they walked in life.
“You could talk to the most affluent people in town, or the other end of the scale – everybody had a Sid story,” longtime friend Ryan McKenzie said.
“He honestly ran in all the circles.”
And just as he touched many in life, those close to Avigdor hope his recent death will send a strong message – one that drives home the need to take COVID-19 seriously.
“To all the people out there – I’ve been amazed at friends of mine that travelled over Christmas… it’s just time to stay home and survive,” said McKenzie.
“COVID is what took him down. The message is you just have to take care of your health and you have to respect what’s going on in the world right now and not be selfish, because you lose people.”
Avigdor, 52, died Dec. 7, after suffering a major asthma attack one day after coming out of quarantine for a COVID-19 diagnosis. He’d gone out to pick up groceries for his mom, and was visiting a friend when he became short of breath and collapsed.
The news was “a shocker,” said McKenzie, who had seen Avigdor earlier that evening and had made plans to meet up with his friend for coffee the following morning.
“It was really quite strange because I tried to make eye contact with him… but it never really happened,” McKenzie said of their last encounter. “He was outside in the front yard and I watched him walk to his truck, and I was like, ‘You OK?’ He said, ‘I’m OK.’
“I’m still sort of processing the whole thing.”
McKenzie described Avigdor as someone who was raised by the entire White Rock/South Surrey community and “touched a lot of people” over the years.
As a kid, Avigdor was an avid athlete who played minor hockey, was “super mathematic” and had a “huge personality,” the latter a trait he inherited from his mom, Moala. And while tragedy at age 11 forever changed the course of Avigdor’s life, that huge personality never wavered, McKenzie said.
“He was just one of those guys, before and after his accident.”
McKenzie said the community took Avigdor under its collective wing after he suffered a brain injury when he was hit by a train along the West Beach waterfront tracks, on the first day of spring break, March 1979. It put him in a coma for more than three weeks, and forced him to relearn even the most basic of skills. But it also spurred a circle of care that would follow him for the rest of his life.
“Every kid in town and all the parents knew it could’ve been any one of us… and everybody looked out for him, for his whole life,” McKenzie said.
Avigdor’s sister, Jen Lelonde, believes the support is what enabled her brother to overcome his injury to the degree that he did; regaining memories, going on to graduate and contribute in positive ways to the lives of others.
“I think the community is what brought him together, brought him back to life,” she said Thursday (Jan. 7).
Describing her brother as “very social,” Lelonde said one of his favourite things to do was to help seniors, particularly with moving jobs.
She and McKenzie agreed that laughter was a huge part of Avigdor’s interactions in the community – “he had an excellent laugh,” Lelonde said.
Avigdor inherited a strong work ethic from his dad, McKenzie added, and started his first business while still in high school.
“He overcame so many things in his life. He was always trying… gave it 110 per cent all day, every day.”
Lelonde agreed that there are things to learn from her brother’s death, including just how contagious the coronavirus is. Several people in Avigdor’s circle were diagnosed – including their mom – and each has been affected differently, she said.
It’s important to take precautions and not simply brush off symptoms, she continued.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no service has been planned for Avigdor, however, McKenzie said he hopes by the time his friend’s birthday rolls around in June, that will change. At minimum, something will be done at the beach, he said.
Avigdor was the “best part of life,” he said. “He’ll be missed, no question.”