Kind, humble, and a lover of music, poetry, comedy, and dogs.
Those are a few ways Matt Dempsey is remembering longtime friend Dereck (Rick) Day. Day, 67, died in hospital after being hit by a driver while crossing a street in Spryfield early Friday evening.
“I think denial gets me through. I wrote his obit yesterday, and that’s one of those things where reality begins to kick in because you begin to feel the gravity of the loss,” Dempsey said in an interview on Thursday.
“You remember the type of person, all about the person, the things that we don’t think about with our friends every day. If you had to sit down and write a living person’s obituary, I guarantee the next day you’d probably go and give them a big hug.”
Day was on Sylvia Avenue when he was hit by a 65-year-old male driver around 5:45pm on Friday. Dempsey said his friend wasn’t in a marked crosswalk at the time. Day died in hospital as a result of his injuries, and police said in a media release Monday that charges weren’t anticipated.
“He was rarely by himself because people just liked to be around him. People just liked to see him and they gravitated towards him,” he said.
Dempsey believes one of the reasons so many were drawn to Day was because he always had an encouraging and kind word. Even when critical, Day did it with a disarming and humble kindness.
“If you were his friend and you weren’t measuring up to anything that had to do with moral behaviour or ethics or that type of thing, he would definitely tell you,” Dempsey said.
“But not in a demeaning way. He had a wisdom about him which I, for one, am going to miss.”
While writing Day’s obituary, Dempsey used the words ‘quiet charisma’ to describe his friend. He said he’ll remember Day’s graphic design skills, sincerity, sense of humour, his intelligence, and love of music, reading, and poetry.
“He loved socially conscious, poetic lyrics and he also wrote a lot of stuff like that,” Dempsey said. “I’m sure he has a notebook full of poetry somewhere.”
After graduating from NSCAD, Day co-founded a downtown Halifax design firm called Graphic Design Associates in the 1970s. It was there Dempsey met him for the first time in 1979 during a visit with his high school friend who was also Day’s younger brother.
Day encouraged Dempsey to attend NSCAD, where he studied graphic design. He worked at Day’s firm from 1988 to 1990.
“That was before desktop publishing…We basically did it all by hand. It was sort of the photo era of graphic design in Halifax,” Dempsey recalled.
“At the time, that firm serviced major clients in Halifax, like the IWK, they did all of their print media, Maritime Tel and Tel, they handled the cover of the phone book…I owe a lot to him.”
A music lover, Day was especially passionate about original local music. He designed many album covers for Maritime musicians over the years. He also provided free photocopying for their posters, attended their gigs with groups of friends, and also found ways to buoy their confidence.
“Rick knew scores and scores of amateur musicians that needed that little bit extra to take themselves seriously, to have a little bit more confidence and to hone their skill a bit,” Dempsey said.
“Rick did that over and over and over for people, whether he was playing with them, whether he was recording a song for them, or just hanging out talking about music. That was Rick.”
Day played acoustic guitar and bass. He also enjoyed composing and had an in-home recording studio in the 1980s and 1990s where many friends recorded their own songs.
“He thought more about others than himself, which is why he was an exquisite conversationalist because he had interesting things to say but he was also a great listener,” Dempsey said.
“I read through (our group) Facebook (comments) and almost every person uses the word kind to describe him. It’s a loss. A real loss.”
Dempsey said he has so many good memories of his friend that narrowing it down to just one is difficult.
“He lived the amazing way that he was to everyone, every day,” he said.
“So it wasn’t something that was memorable about Rick because he was like that. Constantly.”
Dempsey said those who knew and loved Day are in shock and still feeling numb from the sudden loss. He wants people to honour Day’s memory by thinking about ways they can live their own lives in a less judgmental way, accepting people for who they are.
He also hopes people are reminded of the importance of always being aware on the road.
“It’s my biggest fear [hitting a pedestrian as a driver], and I’ve done a lot of professional driving too…Take nothing for granted when you’re driving,” he said.
While final arrangements are still underway, Dempsey said he believes Day’s ashes will be spread in the same place as his two beloved black Labrador retrievers, Buddy and Vera.
Some time ago, Day had scrawled three stanzas of a folk song on a piece of a paper. He wanted to ensure that someone would read those lines from ‘The Parting Glass’ at his funeral when the time came.
Dempsey said the words resonate and are a fitting farewell to a well-loved human.
“Of all the money that e’er I had, I spent it in good company. And all the harm that e’er I’ve done, alas, it was to none but me. And all I’ve done for want of wit, to memory now I can’t recall. So fill to me the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be to you all.”