Valley Lives - Blake MacMillan
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the May 11, 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.
A passion for motorbikes, skiing and giving back
by Ben Bulmer
He had his first motorbike when he was just four years old, and that passion for bikes stayed with him through his entire life. His passion didn't just stop at bikes: Blake MacMillan was an avid skier and coach and an intellectual with a critical mind who completed a PhD in sociology. Blake did what he loved, but beyond that, Blake's family and friends talk of all the things he did for everybody else.
"He was very kind and he was full of enthusiasm," said Blake's mother, Mela Constantinidi. "If he was enthusiastic about something, he really went at it all the way." And that enthusiasm shone through - not just in the get-up-and-go attitude he had for his own life, but in the overwhelming positive attitude he bolstered in others. Blake's father, Don MacMillan, said his son taught him a lot about patience and understanding. "I'm kind of a volcanic guy at times, and he was always one to be able to see both sides of the argument," said Don. "[He was] the kind of man I would have liked to have been."
Blake MacMillan was born in Toronto on Feb. 28, 1980 and moved to Wakefield a year later with his parents. "He had a great childhood in Wakefield," said Constantinidi. "We were trusting of him because he was smart enough... he was careful [but] he was also a daredevil." Constantinidi said her son was very independent growing up, being raised like an only child - his only sibling was a stepbrother from Don's first marriage who lived in California. But although Blake's brother was 24 years his senior and lived thousands of kilometres away, they still maintained a very close bond. "He always found it easy to talk," said Constantinidi. "He had a bit of a gift of the gab."
"He was always pushing everyone around him to go further, faster, better," said friend Sean Smith, "but with a smile on his face." Smith met Blake at recess on his first day at Wakefield Elementary in Grade 3. "We made a make-believe ski run down through the forest," said Smith, and from there a lifelong friendship was born. "We were essentially inseparable all the way through elementary school and high school," said Smith. "He always made everyone around him feel wonderful." The boys skied together at Vorlage every day after school. "Essentially, Vorlage was our babysitter," said Smith, and they raced until Blake was about 14 years old when he transitioned into coaching - something he continued to do throughout his adult life.
Following high school, Blake headed to John Abbott CEGEP in Montreal where he enrolled in a variety of arts and humanities courses. "He did very well in wine and beer making [class]," joked Constantinidi, adding that Blake always had a very critical mind: "It was part of his makeup. He was essentially a mindful person and [was] very empathetic... he saw all sides." His academic interests took him to the University of Ottawa, where he completed his undergrad degree and met his future wife, Margaux MacMillan. From there he headed to Carleton University to complete his Masters and PhD. Blake continued to coach skiing, becoming the head coach for the under 18 Camp Fortune Ski Club Integrated Para/Alpine Program. He joined the board of directors for the Bytown BMA Motorcycle Association and became director of training for the club - his mentoring and teaching nature ever-present.
"He was my coach for six years," said Dana Chicoine. "He totally shaped who I was as an athlete and in the... skiing community in the... Outaouais region, he's made an impact on everyone's lives." Chicoine said most people stop coaching at some point, but Blake didn't: "He loved mentoring people... he was such a generous person." Blake recently invited Chicoine to join him as a coach. "I was privileged that he asked me to work with him," she said. "I was seriously considering doing it again because he was such a fun person to be around."
Blake MacMillan was fatally injured on May 1 while off-road motorcycling in the Calabogie Highlands. He is survived by his wife, Margaux MacMillan, and his parents, Mela Constantinidi and Don MacMillan. A gathering to remember Blake will be held on Saturday, May 21 at Backdrop, 160 Metcalfe Street in Ottawa. Those who would like to offer their condolences are invited to drop by between 5:30 and 8 p.m. In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Bytown Motorcycle Association (www.bma1.ca) would be appreciated.
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