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His last words were ‘I love you’: Sister mourns brother found dead in northern B.C. tent

Richard Nelson, a Tsimshian and Nisga’a man living on the streets of Terrace, found dead in -20 weather

Richard Nelson, a Tsimshian and Nisga’a man found dead in his tent by a city bylaw officer on a cold winter morning at the old Co-op parking lot, will be remembered as a loving brother to his sister, Diana Guno.

“He has an infectious laugh that everybody heard and everybody knew. He did everything I could ask for from a brother. He listened and never had any bad words. He was always a respectful, dignified man.

“He didn’t need money to show his love. The last words he said to me was ‘I love you Ann.’ He called me Ann.”

Cst. Kelly Cates of the Terrace RCMP told The Terrace Standard that although weather is not confirmed to be the cause of death, police have ruled out criminality as a factor.

“It can be noted that the weather at the time he was located had been -20 and lower, with high winds.”

54-year-old Nelson was found Dec. 22 and Guno had seen him the day before. They had plans to visit their mother’s grave together for the ninth anniversary of her passing.

The next morning Guno remembers a shelter worker noticed her brother’s bed wasn’t slept in.

Nelson’s tent stood out because of a makeshift Christmas ornament outside the entrance that Guno said was a tribute to their childhood.

“Christmas was a really important time for our family when we were growing up.”

But he didn’t live to see another Christmas. That night, his sister said Nelson had left the shelter to watch over others who were sleeping in a nearby tent because he was worried about them.

Nelson became homeless around 10 years ago after the death of his father, his sister said. Before that Nelson had been married, living a normal life, but a deep sadness took over him.

“He was happily married with a morning routine of making a pot of coffee and an evening routine of washing dishes after dinner. But life changes. You lose a loved one or your loved one walks away from you. It just changes your whole lifestyle,” said Guno.

“I watched him. He was sad. He always told me he was really sad. He was really lonely for my parents. He was really lonely for his wife after she passed. It’s just heartbreaking.”

While Nelson had been living on the street for a long time, between Prince George, Terrace and Prince Rupert, Guno recalled her brother’s ongoing efforts to change his lifestyle.

“He always wanted something different for himself. His age was getting to him and he was tired of it.”

Known by his nickname “Dickey” to his extended family on the street in Terrace, Nelson was called a “street dad” for his role in taking others who are homeless under his wing.

Guno remembers that her brother liked to protect people.

“He liked to look out for people that couldn’t look after themselves. If someone was picking on them and they had nobody to help them he would be right there to help them.”

The place where he died is significant to many homeless people in Terrace because it’s where they go to mourn deaths in the homeless community.

Nelson was the youngest brother in the family. He is survived by two brothers and his sister.

The family are still waiting on official cause of death from the Coroner’s office and would rather not assign blame for Nelson’s passing.

“We don’t want to point the finger,” Guno said.

“We’re taught in our culture to be respectful of everything, even death.”

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