Family, friends and colleagues of former Sault Ste. Marie resident Jeff Splinter are all remembering a man who by all accounts lived each day for the simple joys in life.
Splinter, 53, and his friend, 74-year-old Garnett Johnson, died following a collision with a bus while cycling together in Temiskaming Shores Wednesday afternoon.
Splinter is survived by his two step-daughters, Alanna Rocchetta and Tiffany Muncaster.
“He was the best person. He was authentic,” said Rocchetta. “He was caring, he was kind, he was gentle - and he had a great spirit.”
Rocchetta says that she and her sister never viewed Splinter as their step-father - he was their dad.
“He took me and my sister on as his own,” she said. “Ever since then, he’s been a big part of our lives.”
Rocchetta tells SooToday that Splinter was born and raised in Kingston, Ont. and attended Queen’s University for engineering.
He eventually moved to the Sault to work for Brookfield Renewable Partners L.P., where he remained for a number of years before branching out on his own as principal engineer for CS Engineering Inc.
Rocchetta fondly recalls taking part in a number of activities with her father, including snowshoeing, skiing, boating, kayaking and going out for dinner.
He was also partial to Ollie, the family dog.
“He loved our dog, Ollie. We’d always walk Ollie together,” she said, fighting back tears.
Cycling, hiking community in mourning
Splinter moved to New Liskeard from the Sault about five years ago, where he became a well-loved member of the cycling and hiking community.
Linda St. Cyr, leader of Bike Temiskaming Shores, has been gathering stories about Splinter from members of the cycling group.
“Everybody is feeling the same way. It doesn’t make sense. It just does not make sense that he’s gone,” she said. “He just had so much to give, so many goals.”
The cycling group went ahead with its regularly scheduled ride Thursday night, with a group of approximately 10 cyclists visiting the scene of the collision that claimed two of their friends.
The group shared stories about Splinter and Johnson later that night over a couple of drinks.
St. Cyr says Splinter and Johnson were “best cycling buddies.”
“They were best biking buddies, so if anything, I’m glad they went together, and not alone,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
From building his own kayak, garden and sun-house to volunteering his time and materials to build bear-proof birdhouses for the local ski club, St. Cyr remembers Splinter as a "cool cat" who could “do it all.”
“He was a gentle man and a gentleman. That’s who he was,” she said. “He had a joie de vivre (joy of living). He had so many plans. He felt at home here, even though his family is in the Sault.”
“He’s found a family with all of us here - hikers and bikers. He was in his element in the north.”
Loss felt in local engineering community
Back in the Sault, consultant and colleague, Tim Kelly remembers sharing a lot of conservation and some good times with Splinter over the years, having worked on a number of projects together locally.
“He’s a good guy. The people that worked with him, they have a lot of respect for him as an engineer, and he was really well-liked,” said Kelly. “He was very professional and good to work with, so his loss is certainly felt in the work community.”
“He worked at Brookfield for quite a number of years, and he was actually working on projects that I am involved with. He just didn’t show up for a meeting one day all of a sudden.”
'He was just a simple guy'
Muncaster tells SooToday that she would like her father to be remembered as someone who was “full of love for everybody,” while Rocchetta says her father truly enjoyed the simpler things in life, especially the outdoors.
“He’d get onto a bike, and just bike and enjoy every moment. That’s how he lived - he lived in the moment,” said Rocchetta. “He never worried about the past. He thought about the future, but he didn’t worry about it.”
“He was just a simple guy. He lived fully, he truly did. He lived to the fullest.”