On the corner of Trail Avenue and Dolphin Street in Sechelt, B.C., across from Hackett Park at the newish four-way stop is an atrocious display of sidewalk architecture and a sign that makes the locals snicker but their hearts gleam.
The sidewalk, established in 1987, covered a gutter of delightful tadpoles for one smalltown block and culminates in a jarring two-foot slope of concrete so dangerous that poles and chains were erected to protect the unsuspecting pedestrians from the drop whilst breathing in the spectacular view of the town’s singular traffic light (we now have three) and a burgeoning mountainside gravel pit.
Flabbergasted by this show of civic planning, my father, a man of impeccable taste in design, went to task. In the basement shop of our rented home – one of the town’s oldest – across from the jilted sidewalk, he sawed, whittled, and painted “LOVERS LOOKOUT” SECHELT on a wood sign and, with a few screws, christened the sidewalk a local legend.
This past Father’s Day my brother and I set out to spruce up the sign, faded to a dull brown over its 25-year sojourn. Many will recognize Lovers Lookout but few know the story behind it. Such is life in a quirky smalltown, where highway bus stops are stocked with chairs left by mystery Good Samaritans because there are no bus shelters, where chainsaw-made stump gnomes can be found in the woods, where the free shed at the dump is a trove of treasures and burly men in big trucks scour switchbacks at Christmas for stranded skiers.
My father’s name was Dave Petrescu. He was a carpenter by trade, a photographer by hobby and a shop teacher at Pender Harbour Secondary School for 16 years. He was many other things as well; an incredible father, husband and friend included. Lovers Lookout was just one of his many design triumphs. He and his students built the Madeira Park information sign, he designed a yellow cedar hope chest just for me (though I later discovered most of the Harbour had made their own in shop class), he built our kitchen cabinets with a 500-year-old stump from the Sechelt waterfront, bronze cast his own thumb to replace a gearshift knob on his three-in-a-tree GMC truck and once sculpted a bronze bust of my mother.
My brother and I were just eight and five-years-old when my dad made that sign and it has reminded us of him with embarrassment, pride and sadness in the 25 years since. He died nearly nine years ago from skin cancer. He was at peace, in love with his family, his community and his life. May this story be one example of how we never really lose a loved one; they stay with us in the stories, humour and signs that come after they’re gone.