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Posted: February 19, 2018

Thousands pay respects to Joan and Clayton

e-KNOW Editorial

By Ian Cobb

I’ve tried four different times to write a ‘news’ piece about the Feb. 17 joint funeral service for Joan MacKinnon and Clayton Murrell.

And I failed four times, as words inexorably became personal and emotional.

Two shining lights were taken from two families, as well as from the Cranbrook community, and communities touched by Joan and Clayton, from lifeguarding and Western Financial Place’s Aquatic Centre, to the British Columbia Professional Firefighters Association to the regional riding and roping world and more.

Saturday, Feb. 17, in a driving snowstorm, about 400 men and women from a vast array of first-responding agencies from as far away as Winnipeg, the northern territories, Vancouver Island and the USA mustered on Baker Street beside Mount Baker Secondary School and marched to Western Financial Place.

Please click to enlarge photo

The procession stretched from 14th Avenue to the arena.

Hundreds of firefighters from dozens of communities, local and afar, led by pipers and Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services members, fronted a procession that included 32 RCMP officers, Kimberley Fire Department, Health Services/BC Ambulance, Cranbrook and Kimberley Search and Rescue associations, Kootenay Columbia Air Rescue, Provincial Court Sheriff, BC Forest Service and I am sure a few others I have missed, and I apologize for not being more precise.

The fact is, we’re grieving, too. All the local media knew Joan and Clayton in one way or another. Everyone seemed to know them, and for good reason. They were leaders and mentors; teachers and protectors. They were the kind of people you always wanted to be around; good souls to the Nth degree.

That they were taken from their families and friends in the manner they were amplified their passing to the point where it broke the hearts of strangers. We all drive those highways.

For those who worked side-by-side with Joan and Clayton, their loss has been devastating.

Kimberley RCMP Detachment commander Sgt. Chris Newel summed it up beautifully.

“As first responders, we have worked closely with Clayton. There is a brotherhood between us, and a bond we share. It was an honour to march alongside the large contingent of firefighters from across B.C. and elsewhere.

“Not only did we know and work with Clayton, many know his children and extended family. It will be a huge loss as they were pillars of the community.

There is a void in our hearts and the community but the legacy of Clayton and Joan will live on.”

Brotherhood and sisterhood; communityhood was on full and mighty display Saturday.

The honour procession entered Western Financial Place and joined a gathering that was about 3,500 strong.

And those gathered learned a great deal more about Joan Marie MacKinnon and Clayton Bradley Murrell (both aged 51) during the celebration of life presided over by Rev. Jack Lindquist.

Family members, including Joan’s and Clayton’s children, as well as professional associates and riding and roping partners told us all a love story that ended tragically. I personally learned that Joan and Clay’s children, their children and their family and associates are reflections of them and they will carry on in their spirit.

When the Kimberley, Calgary and Surrey pipe band members, led by Dan MacKinnon, played Amazing Grace… I felt my heart break and realized in the torrent of emotions that I was witnessing humankind at its finest. Two souls most deserving being honoured and remembered and loved. The good these two people embodied, recognized and returned; 3,500 plus people sobbed at the same time.

Joan and Clayton would have been gobsmacked speechless; likely seeking a way to step away from the spotlight.

Their humble and giving natures channeled perfectly into their work lives; devoted to the safety and betterment of others.

The number of local and visiting dignitaries, not part of the procession but seated in the arena, was also testament to the impact Joan and Clay had on this region.

The service concluded with the uniformed procession and lifeguards returning outside and forming for the departure of the MacKinnon and Murrell families.

In the driving snow and cold, dressed in non-winter attire, they saluted as the funeral vehicles crept past.

And then they marched away; back to work; back to duty; back to helping and protecting.

As Joan and Clayton would have wanted it.

The final image in the service’s slideshow – Joan and Clay kissing on their horses, their backs turned, facing the horizon, ready to ride – was the perfect conclusion.

With their horses, and dog who passed on shortly before they did, they’re ready for a long and incredible ride. May it be so.

If you would like to make a donation in honour Joan MacKinnon and Captain Clayton Murrell…

Special Olympics Cranbrook

BC Burn Fund

Pineridge Roping Club

Cheques can be dropped off at Williams moving and storage
Or etransfer to [email protected]

Lead image: Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services members salute as the MacKinnon and Murrell families drive past Feb. 17 in Cranbrook. Photos by Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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