To many in Fredericton, George Piers was perhaps best known as the co-founder of Fredericton’s Community Kitchen and as a fixture at the Boyce Farmers Market.
But those close to him also remember him as a dedicated teacher, mentor and family man, with a wicked sense of humour.
Piers died Friday evening at the age of 74.
His son, Peter, confirmed his passing to CBC News. He said his father had experienced complications with his heart in the last four years of his life.
“Basically, his heart just wore out,” he said.
Piers helped found the kitchen in 1982 and was involved in running it until 2013, at one point serving as its executive director.
When interviewed in 2013, Piers said he was proud of the positive impact the kitchen had on the people it served.
“My major accomplishment has been working with the individuals that come in here. Seeing them get off of their drugs, getting them on rehabilitation programs, seeing them out in the workforce where they are now successful and productive citizens,” he said.
Though thousands of people would have seen his father serving meals and working in the kitchen over the years, “what they didn’t see is the mother and two children [who] during the off hours that he would make sandwiches for, or do whatever he could to make a bagged lunch to take home with them so they wouldn’t be hungry in the night,” said Peter Piers.
“Although dad liked the limelight, he didn’t seek the limelight.”
Though he wasn’t active at the kitchen in his later years, it was still always on his mind, he said.
Before founding the kitchen, Piers was a teacher for many years, retiring in 1994.
Mike Smith, who sits on the board of Fredericton’s Community Kitchen, said he first got to know Piers when he was a teacher at Nashwaakis Middle School.
He said Piers was a mentor to him when he was learning the ropes.
“He had a way of putting things in perspective, which I really appreciated,” he said.
Smith said Piers was beloved by students because he knew how to relate to them, and you could tell he really cared about them.
“He knew what was important to them and how to get through to them,” he said.
Outside of teaching and running the soup kitchen, Piers also raised chickens and other poultry, the products of which he sold at his stall at the Boyce Farmer’s Market for 40 years.
Leslie Morrell, manager of the market, said market staff are “still in sort of daze” at the news of Piers’ death, because he was a vendor there for so long.
She said Piers was a wealth of knowledge for her when she took over as manager, describing him as fun-loving and a straight-shooter.
“No matter what you asked him, you were gonna get an answer whether you liked it or not,” she said.
The market will be putting out a condolence book next Saturday where his booth was located.
Funeral to take place Friday
Piers is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Visitation will take place at McAdam’s Funeral Home in Fredericton on Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
His funeral will take place Friday at 2 p.m. at the Smythe Street Cathedral in Fredericton.