He led a fascinating life but will also be remembered for his spirit of giving.
A celebration of life will be held this Saturday at Ladner United Church for Al Hollinger, who passed away June 10 at the age of 82.
Known for his generosity, Hollinger, whose estate will help several charitable organizations, was born on July 15, 1933 in Montreal. He joined the military at 18 because he thought it might be a good opportunity to see the world. He was training to be an artillery observer at CFB Petawawa, but later left because of a back injury he sustained during ski patrol.
He had a lifelong passion for collecting and rebuilding motorcycles and in his early 20s worked as a stunt driver for a traveling carnival. It was there he had a chance to see most of Canada. For $30 a month, he enjoyed being a daredevil on his motorcycle and operating the rollercoaster.
Hollinger eventually made his way back to Montreal where started working for a community police station. He worked everything from traffic detail to being the explosive expert on staff.
Hollinger eventually made the decision to move out west and got a job as a guard at the infamous B.C. Penitentiary. In June 1975, Hollinger was involved in a hostage taking that lasted 41 hours. Hollinger retired in 1986 at the age of 53 after working for the prison system for 21 years.
Last December, the Delta Hospital Foundation gave special thanks Hollinger, a resident at Mountain View Manor, for his significant donations to the hopsital, which at the time exceeded $400,000.
It was in memory of his longtime friend and partner Joan Rumsey, who also spent her final years as a resident at Mountain View.
He met Rumsey through the Cross-Canada Cycle Tour Society, training with the group as members prepared for cross-country adventures.
Describing how Rumsey transformed his life in many ways, Hollinger credited her as his inspiration to give back to others and his community.
"When I met Joan, she brought the fun back into my life... we had fun together, Joan and I," Hollinger said during the special celebration.
He made his donations as a way of showing his love and commitment to the hospital, according to the foundation, noting his generous contributions allowed for the establishment of the Forest for our Future. It's a reflection space on hospital grounds for patients, residents and family members.
He also created an endowment to give back to nursing staff. The foundation says the first distribution of the Al Hollinger and Joan Rumsey Nursing Education Fund will go towards creating a dedicated education space for nursing staff across all Delta Hospital departments.
"With this fund, our nurses will have the space to practice procedures that are central to ensuring a quick assessment and treatment for those coming through our emergency department doors who may be in crisis or suffering from trauma," said clinical nurse educator Jackie Demmy in December.
Rev. Jim Short, who will be presiding over the celebration of life, told the Optimist he was amazed at the extent of Hollinger's knowledge and many skills, describing him as a "real renaissance man."
Short, who got to know Hollinger very well during his final few years, said his friend was very passionate about South Delta.
"He was so passionate that when he had to go into nursing care, he said to me, 'Jim, if I have to leave my community and if I have to live outside of South Delta, I'll die.' I can believe it. He loved this place," Short said.
This Saturday's celebration at Ladner United Church, 4960-48th Ave., starts at 2 p.m. It will be followed by a party Hollinger wanted held.