R.I.P. Bas Stevens

By on October 12, 2016
BasStevens

Submitted by Mike Archer & Vince Dimanno

From Mike Archer…

I knew Bas primarily through two areas of his life which coincided with mine.

When I was editor of Abbotsford Today I relied heavily on Bas for his skills as a photographer. Bas wasn’t just a skilled professional he had what editors the world over seek in a photographer – he had a sixth sense about events and people.

In journalism school we are taught to take the photo first and worry about why we took it afterwards. In other words; we were taught to follow our instincts. If our eyes told us there might be something worth taking a picture of they were usually right.

Bas had those instincts, in spades, but he had more. More often than not he was able to sense and capture the precise moment when his subject’s face revealed something important about them and the moment in which they found themselves. That takes talent. It takes patience and a certain indefinable grasp of human nature.

And so; each week during the summer, Abbotsford Today readers were privy to some of the most revealing, joyous and candid photos of the celebration of music, art, and life represented by Jam in Jubilee.

More than just shots of performers on stage, Bas took beautiful shots of the faces of people enjoying themselves during the weekly gathering.

His photos told stories because he knew how to let them speak for themselves. He just followed his instincts and was good enough at his craft that he was able to leave behind a record of his place and time like no other.

Jubilee Park was, in many ways the center of Bas’s world during the years I knew him. Living nearby, Bas often gravitated to the park because it was the center of another universe; a universe he played a central part in chronicling both as a photo journalist, and as deeply concerned citizen.

Bas could usually be found at the 5 and 2 Ministries dinners in Jubilee Park and was a daily part of the lives of the people who were forced to call the street their home.

Nick Zurowski, The Face of Homelessness in Abbotsford. Bas Stevens Photo.

Nick Zurowski, The Face of Homelessness in Abbotsford. Bas Stevens Photo.

Jubilee Park also became ground zero for what would become the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis, a saga which would test the community of Abbotsford, its leaders, its community groups, its churches, and its citizens. Bas was there to tell the story of the people who lived on the streets and who were caught up in a battle between ideologies which would go all the way to the BC Supreme Court and provide headlines around the world about the City that used chicken manure and police batons to deal with its homeless population.

Bas was always there to ensure that this part of Abbotsford’s complicated story was told as well.

Some of the most telling and memorable moments of the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis were told on the faces of the men and women in Bas’s photos. For that, history owes him a great debt.

Never one to back down from an argument, Bas nonetheless had friends on all sides of the issues in which he participated and I think I’ll respect his memory most for being true to himself and fearless in the face of whatever opposition he faced. His very private battle with his fiercest opponent, the cancer which took his leg and ultimately his life ended last week.

What was never in doubt for me was Bas’s commitment to leaving the world a better place than he found it. In that he succeeded admirably. Those of us who loved him, fought with him and drew strength from him will miss him terribly.

From Vince Dimanno…

Bas and I met nearly a decade ago as we both worked together as part of community groups. Everyone who has ever met Bas will have a story to tell you about him. He was memorable and no wallflower. He would always tell you what he was thinking and you were nearly always the better for it. On occasion, he would go at me pretty hard and it took me awhile to see the mischievous smile that would come across his face as he, once again, realized that he “got me”.

I learned very early on, that asking Bas if he “needed a hand” was a complete mistake. Some form of the joke that the last thing he needed was another hand was sure to follow long before you realized it was coming. My only consolation came when I started offering him piggy-back rides which elicited a good scowl from him.

Bas cared about every person he met. I truly cannot recall walking into a room and Bas not asking after my daughter…and he wanted to know the truth. “She’s fine” was not good enough and another scowl would come if I didn’t fill him in with details.

As he felt about individuals, he felt about our community. He felt, as many of us do, that we are all in this together. Every race, colour, creed, class and religion should live with the understanding that we are all the same. Humanity is our birthright, not wealth or status, or any other thing that separates us from our compassion for others.

Bas had the compassion and energy that stretched from people to our planet. Our community has lost a champion, and those of us that knew him personally have a lost a very good friend indeed.

A celebration of life is being planned for Bas on Friday October 14 at 2pm till 4pm at the Abbotsford Social Activity Association building located at 33889 Essendene Ave. Abbotsford. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to The 5 and 2 Ministries at 1-2220 McKenzie Rd Abbotsford BC V2S 0E2.

(You can view just a few of the hundreds of great pictures Bas took over the years that he submitted to Abbotsford Today in the gallery below.)

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