Kelly Smyth, playing at Princeton’s Canada Day celebrations July 1, 2019. Photo Bob Marsh.

“Princeton won’t be the same without him, that’s what they say.”

A celebration of life held in the town square, possibly with a street blocked off to allow for everyone to attend, is the kind of memorial most people would expect for a politician or prominent member of the business community.

On September 22 Princeton residents will gather at the gazebo on Vermilion Avenue to remember Kelly Smyth, who is probably best known for just being everyone’s friend.

Kelly died July 27, after collapsing on a Penticton beach. He was felled by numerous health issues complicated by a serious infection.

“It’s incredible and makes me feel very good to hear people say “Princeton won’t be the same without him,” said his sister Gael Smyth. “That’s what they say.”

Kelly was born in Vancouver, but grew up in Washington with his family and as an adult worked in a cannery there.

He moved to Princeton in 2002 and for the past several years lived at Riverside Cabins, doing odd jobs and sometimes collecting cans and bottles for recycling.

Most days, especially in good weather, he could be found downtown on a bench on Bridge Street, enjoying the view and chatting with passersby.

“He said hi to every single person,” said Gael. “He loved Princeton and the community really opened its heart to him.”

Kelly volunteered each year at the Princeton Rodeo, and played with local rock bands.

“He loved his music. He lived for music. He was an amazing drummer.”

Gael said Kelly “had a couple of rough things happen in his life,” but that did not deter his positive outlook.

“He would help anybody. He loved people.”

Since news of his death spread word-of-mouth through the community Gael has come to appreciate how much Kelly was loved back.

“Strangers come up to me on the street. People come to the door and leave cards and angel bells. They’ve all got some story to tell me. It’s amazing. It’s just amazing.”

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