'All-around good man': John Hickey, Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor, dies from gunshot injury

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'All-around good man': John Hickey, Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor, dies from gunshot injury

'All-around good man': John Hickey, Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor, dies from gunshot injury

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor John Hickey has died of a shotgun injury suffered last weekend.

​Hickey died surrounded by his family Thursday night at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's, according to a statement from the town council. He was 62 years old.

It's unclear how his gun went off, but Hickey was shot in the face while checking his rabbit snares in Labrador on Saturday, and was transferred to hospital in St. John's where he was listed in critical condition.

Hubert Hickey said his brother was unconscious for most of the time he was in hospital, but that he came to for a brief period and shared a moment with his partner, Peggy. 

Though Hickey was very seriously injured, he said, his death still came as a shock.

"We honestly thought that he was going to pull through this," he said.

"You just can't make sense of it."

He said his brother had politics in his blood.

"He had passion for Labrador like you wouldn't believe, and the people of Labrador. He believed in helping and he wanted to help," he said.

"He loved giving back to the people."

Many of John Hickey's colleagues from his career in provincial and municipal politics offered their memories and condolences Friday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mayor Hickey's family at this very difficult time," Deputy Mayor Wally Andersen wrote in a press release issued by council.

"This is a sad time for our community, and we urge all residents to respect the privacy of Mr. Hickey's family and to remember them in their thoughts and prayers."

Premier Dwight Ball also offered his condolences.

"John was known as a fighter in politics. His determination, drive and political savvy at both the municipal and provincial level served the residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and all of Labrador well during his tenure in public life," he said in a release sent Friday.

Perry Trimper, Speaker of the House of Assembly, and MHA for Lake Melville, knew Hickey for 25 years.

"Whatever was good for the community, good for Labrador, [Hickey] was out there speaking for it," said Trimper. "He'd push your normal limits and you'd have to start up and think."

Former premier Danny Williams recalled Hickey as "hard-working, loyal and kind-hearted."

"I will always remember John as a true advocate for others," he said in a statement.

"Rarely have I met an individual so dedicated and passionate in representing the people he served. Labradorians will probably never fully know the enormous contribution that he made on their behalf."

'He was there for anybody'

Bonnie Learning, who worked with Hickey while he served as an MHA, has known him for decades — he was a longtime friend of her dad's.

"All-around good man ... He was there for anybody to help you with anything," she told CBC's Jacob Barker Friday.

She said her "heart just sank" upon learning of his death, since many thought the worst might be behind him.

"It's just unbelievable that you know, he is no longer here with us," Learning said.

At a council meeting Thursday night — before Hickey's passing — it had been determined that Andersen will take over the mayor's role for now.

"It's difficult to take over under these circumstances, but the job has to be done," Andersen said at the time.

Longtime politician

Hickey has called Happy Valley-Goose Bay home since 1974. He worked with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, as a high voltage lineman, for 25 years.

He served at the municipal government level for over 16 years, before making the move into provincial politics in 2003 and later served as the Minister of Labrador Affairs, among other portfolios.

Hickey retired from provincial politics in 2011. Two years later, he ran for mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, but lost.

He won the mayor's seat in the September 2017 election. 

Projects, budget timelines now unknown

The town council had said it planned to carry Hickey's vision forward in his absence, in the hopes it would be a temporary one.

That included releasing the 2018 budget on time, hosting Hickey's planned health-care forum, securing Spring Gulch water and continuing to apply for infrastructure funding.

It's unclear now that Hickey has died if those timelines can still be met. 

On Tuesday, about 250 Happy Valley-Goose Bay residents came together for an evening rally to show their support for Hickey.

"He's done a lot for the community," said his grandson Nolan Walsh at the event.

"It made me feel kinda good knowing that he has so much support around the town."