Heart of Our City: Making the most of your one chance

Kevin Newton is not the kind of man who wastes times

Kevin Newton is not the kind of man who wastes times. He makes the most of it.

That is why he spent more than 800,000 work hours as safety inspector for the Fairview Terminal Construction Project with only 256 hours of manpower lost.

Two-hundred fifty-six might seem like a lot but for a safety inspector those numbers are unheard of and earned him the honour of being nominated for the Lieutenant Governor’s Safety Award.

There were no incidents on his watch except, according to Newton, when a supervisor decided to foolishly stick his head in a furnace.

“Well, that certainly backfired on him,” Newton said, puns and sense of humour still intact.

Even living with Parkinson’s Disease, Newton is making the most of his time.

He is a busy man, preparing for his own passing by making sure he leaves the world a better place for all those that succeed him.

Newton won’t stop until his last breath.

“The pleasure of being around the excitement of making a buck and getting something out of your existence, is what keeps me going,” he said.

Did Newton get something out of his existence? He would tell you yes.

“I met good people and kept going where most people would have stopped,” he said.

Kevin Newton was born moons ago, back when the allied forces were fighting Germany in the Battle of the Bulge.

On Monday, Dec. 23 he celebrated his 75th birthday in Prince Rupert, half a world away from his birth place, the small village of Wantage, Berkshire, England.

Newton was born a premature, “tiny and lazy baby that fit in the top drawer of Mr. and Mrs. Drawer”, Newton said, as described by his mom.

His dad was keen to leave England, convinced another war was on the horizon as the Soviets blockaded Berlin.

Around the age of four or five, Newton boarded the Empress of Canada to cross the ocean to Québec City. From there he travelled by rail to rail to Vancouver to live on a farm in rural Coquitlam.

All Newton remembers of that time is the old beaver-sitting-on-a-rail logo and exploring the ship, while others got sea sick, and looking at all the machinery — a foreshadowing of his later career.

But that wasn’t the end of Newton’s travel adventures.

“I was kind of a lost soul. I didn’t associate with anybody because I never stayed long enough in one place. We would just pick up and go. Do what your dad tells you,” he said.

Unable to find work, his dad contemplated going to Kenya but plans fell through because of the Mau Mau uprising.

A short two-year stay in England proved to be unfruitful and so they headed off to Jamaica where Newton bonded with tadpoles, the size of his hand, that he chased all over the swimming pool, and stayed at Ian Fleming’s, author of James Bond 007 fame, small hotel.

Kevin Newton is in good company with puppy Chloe, sitting on his lap, and 13-year-old Heidi, who is always curled up in his jacket or in a blanket right beside him. (Jenna Cocullo / The Northern View)

His mother felt that there was going to be an uprising in Jamaica after hearing of whispers of independence, deciding Canada was the best British colony to live in after all.

They moved to a little place called Deep Cove on the North Shore of Vancouver Harbour. After a short period, the family went into dairy farming in White Rock before packing up for Salt Spring Island and a 10 acre grove full of ancient trees. Through all the moves Newton never finished his high school education.

Instead, on Salt Spring, he had started logging and harvesting the timber off their property.

Motivated to make the most of his one-stop trip on Earth, he went back to school to advance.

Newton also found time to travel to India, Japan, Hong Kong, Machu Picchu, Peru, Africa, Morocco, and Spain.

When he came back to Canada, he worked with fisheries on Haida Gwaii and got a part-time job with BC Highways, on the Kwuna ferry as a “cleaner traffic cop” as he likes to refer to it (a terminal tenant).

This is where Newton’s life really began. It was working at the ferry that made him decide he wanted to change his personality to become a nicer person, after realizing he offput some people and had no way of making friends.

READ MORE: Kaien Safety trainer, Kevin Newton, gets philanthropic in his retirement

“Things weren’t going my way. Then you realize you don’t make things your way, you make the best of your way. What is given to you by the all mighty power is what you can only work with and that is what happened, and I didn’t like that,” he said.

“I learned the simple thing that life is to be enjoyed because you only make one trip. You don’t make friends on the second trip because you aren’t coming back. You only live once. So, I decided to change my personality and move to Prince Rupert away from the pressures of always having to run for the ferry.”

It was in Prince Rupert where he met the love of his life, Judge Agnus Krantz, while they were both volunteering at the North Pacific Cannery.

“I learned from her, what it was like living with someone who has the gift to make other people love their lives,” he said.

And love his life he does.

Newton’s most precious memory in his career is his time spent teaching his thousands of students.

“I miss seeing the student’s eyes light up in that moment when they realize they finally get something. And then next thing you know they love doing it.”

In 2013, Newton lost Agnus to pancreatic cancer. He is currently putting in a plan for the Agnus Krantz Scholarship for UNBC, post graduate work for First Nations women who wish to go into the field of law.

Newton still exercises on his machine four times a day for ten minutes at a time and just bought a house which he is fixing up to give back to the community as a palliative care facility.

After all of Newton’s travelling and adventures he is still a lost soul, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I don’t think anyone finds their soul because if they do they start relaxing and die quickly,” he said.

And Newton remains restless because he has no plans of going anytime soon. After all, he plans to keep going when most people would have stopped long ago.

READ MORE HEART OF OUR CITY: PTSD won’t define this former RCMP officer


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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