Dedicated Langley volunteer mourned

A milk man turned insurance sales man, John Dance always had an entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit.

It wasn’t one single contribution he made, but literally hundreds of small donations – whether it be giving of his time, money, or resources – that made Dance an exemplary Langleyite, his wife Gail said following Dance’s death Tuesday afternoon.

Dance’s health had been deteriorating in recent months, but a fall about a week ago caused a brain haemorrhage that led to his death Tuesday afternoon in Langley Memorial Hospital.

Through the years, Dance was involved in Langley’s chamber of commerce including a stint as president. He worked with the downtown merchants group, and served as chair of the Langley Days committee several times over. He was a founding member of the Langley Citizens on Patrol, and offered up his assistance as a volunteer driver shuttling seniors to doctors appointments.

“You can’t really think of too much he wasn’t involved in, in some way,” Gail told the Langley Advance, also recounting that he made three unsuccessful runs for City council – once only missing out by 18 votes.

But his most significant contributions to this community came during more than 35 years as an active Rotarian, Gail said, noting he was a member in three different Langley clubs, serving on the executive – including two terms as president – as well as volunteering with numerous committees.

“John lived his Rotary motto of ‘service above self’,” Gail said. “He took that motto as gospel, you could say Rotary was his church… he took it very seriously… If there was anything that needed doing, he’d step up and get it done.”

That’s what made him an invaluable asset to Langley, said his wife, who worked along side Dance in his insurance business as well as in his many voluntary endeavours through the years.

“John was always there. It didn’t matter whether we were cleaning roads, digging gardens, cooking hotdogs, or soliciting donations, his name was always first on the sign-up sheet,“ said his friend and fellow Rotarian Dick Hooper, who saw him just hours before his passing.

Hooper described Dance as opinionated, but said he was determined and his heart was always in the right place which was apparent in any of his charity undertakings.

He was also known for motivating others with what Hooper described his “gentle persuasion.”

Tony Malyk worked closely with Dance in Rotary, especially when he succeeded Dance as president of the Rotary Club of Langley Sunrise.

“He was extremely proud to be the president of our club. He worked tireless hours volunteering on numerous Rotary committees and always delivered when we needed him. I always admired him for being honest in comments even if it wasn’t what everyone wanted to hear at the time.” Malyk said.

“John was the president of our club for two terms and received not one but two Paul Harris [Fellowship] awards, which is the highest Rotary recognition that most of us will ever receive,” explained current Sunrise president Rod Wainwright.

“He will always be remembered as a dedicated, hardworking Rotarian who was always the guy who volunteered first for every project and fundraiser our club involved itself in,” Wainwright added, noting most recently that Dance was instrumental in making the Tip ’n’ Taste a success.

“When a vendor hesitated, John made sure he didn’t get off the hook that easily… It won’t be easy to replace him,” Wainwright said.

In addition to operating a small business and involving himself in countless charity projects and events in Langley, Dance was known as an avid traveller, who would jump in his motorhome and exploring Canada and the U.S.

Dance was born in 1936 in Ontario and adopted by Frank and Alice Dance as a young boy. He moved west in the late 1950s, and made Langley his home most of the years following.

To those close to him, he was also known as a dog lover and a Star Trek fan, his wife hinting she might just have him cremated in his Captain Picard uniform.

Dance is survived by his wife Gail, his four children, Melanie, Tracy, Brent, and Michele, his three step-children, Serena, Venetia, and Rick, as well as seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He’s also survived by his younger brother Lorne.

The Langley Sunrise Rotary Club will be hosting a celebration of life for Dance on Saturday, Feb. 22, starting at 2 p.m. at the Masonic Hall, at 20701 Fraser Hwy.

In addition, Gail said, his family will host a huge party at the house in Dance’s memory this summer. That will allow a number of other close friends and his “hockey family” unable to attend his celebration of life this month to pay tribute.

Many others share their thoughts and condolences

Brodyn Nielsen, one of Dance’s grandchildren, lived with his grandparents and other buddies while attending hockey school in Langley.

Dance’s nickname among the kids was “Grandpa Grumps,” becasue he would act grumpy with them but had a “blast” watching the kids swim and hot tub, recalled Dance’s step-daughter Venetia Nielsen.

“I would just like to thank my grandpa for giving me a childhood I will never forget,” said Brodyn.

“First off, you took me on my first ever fishing trip where I caught a fish that got bigger every time i told the story. Secondly, I would like to thank you for letting a total of six of us live at your house for two years. I know it probably wasn’t that fun for you when we would Nicky Nicky Nine Doors on our own house at 12 o’clock at night, or play our music on our phones and hide it somewhere you couldn’t find. But through all of that it gave me and my friends endless memories with you, whether we were being little sh.. heads or not. I just want to say thank you for putting such a positive outlook on my life gramps and I know you’re already watching the first episode of Star Trek up there. You will be missed by many and we will always love you. Rest in peace Grandpa Grumps,” Brodyn concluded.

Brodyn’s girlfriend, Kodi Horth Wessels, who knew Dance for the past seven years, wrote: “R.I.P Grandpa John, thanks for always putting up with all us kids at the house every single weekend and letting me make the best memories that are going to last a lifetime! Thanks for all the funny stories you told us about your travels or just the funny stories you had. You were an amazing guy and I will never forget you! Thanks for all the memories and great times!! Love you! Forever in our hearts and never forgotten.”

Several Rotarians offered comments on Dance, as well.

Fellow Rotarian Grant Gilmour won’t soon forget Dance’s unique nature, fondly remembering his sales techniques demostrated each year at the Langley Good Times Cruise-In hotdog sales.

“He used to shout ‘yummy yummy hotdogs’ at the top of his lungs with preposterous freebies added in, like free mustard,” Gilmour said, recalling how the club was selling water at an event.

It was a hot, hot day and the water was not cold – in fact, as Gilmour recalled, it was hot. Dance won’t be deterred, again shouting at the top of his lungs. But, instead of pushing cold water, he switched it up and shouted “wet water.”

“I was tucking my son in last night and he asked why I was sad. I told him about John and how he was the guy who taught me to shout ‘yummy yummy hotdogs.’ FYI: my son and I do that now. My son’s (Quinn) reply was that we needed to teach someone else now, since John had taught us. This is a good perspective, John taught me a lot without even trying. His way was brash and sometimes in your face, but boy, oh boy, he got stuff done,” Gilmour recounted.

Fellow Rotarian Sherry Baker described Dance as “dedicated,” noting he was involved in all aspects of the Rotary Club, from executive and two consecutive terms as president, to serving on countless committees through the years.

“He enthusiastically participated in all our service projects and especially enjoyed our firesides and social events – many of which were hosted in his home with his wife, Gail, always making everyone feel so welcome,” Baker said.

“John will be truly missed by us all.”

Garth Hansen recalls John well during his tenure as president of the Sunrise club, recounting that it was the same year he was present of the evening Rotary club.

He spent a bunch of time with him at pre-PET (president elect training) seminars, and remembered one specific trip heading south for a seminar with fellow Rotarians Wayne Wiebe and Grant Gilmour.

They were waiting in the border lineup, when Dance perked up from the back seat and recounted an encounter with the border guards: "Did I ever tell you about the time I got caught trying to cross the border with a gun?"

As Hansen recalled the story, turned out Dance was visiting his nephew in the U.S. and his nephew stashed his gun in Dance’s motorhome, thinking Dance would like it.

"It was a funny story, and even though it really put John in a bad spot at the time, he was laughing about it when he told us," Hansen said. "John always had great stories about his travels."

Hansen worked with Dance "for quite a few years" on the Tip ‘n’ Taste fundraiser: "He always had a lot of ideas. I remember teaching him some email etiquette at the time. He liked to type in all caps and add lots of exclamation points. I like local history and politics, and John always had lots of stories. Every time I saw John, he always had a joke to tell. John was a little rough around the edges, but his heart was always in the right place."

Dance’s granddaughter, Leah Gregg, noted his generosity and kindness went beyond just community involvement.

“John Dance had a really big heart. He was extremely generous and always eager to share a laugh,” Gregg said. “He… was always happy to lend a hand to help out friends, family, and strangers alike.”

Recounting that he loved exploring the open road on extended road trips, Dance had a fascination with the wild west and was a devoted Trekkie (Star Trek fan). So, she said to her grandfather: “Boldly go where none of us have gone before, John!”

Dance’s stepdaughter Venetia Nielsen commented the man she knew as her stepdad or JD for more than 30 years.

“There was never a person in need in our family, extended family, and friends who was not given a helping hand by John and Gail and welcomed into their home and lives. Hundreds and hundreds of people have shared and enjoyed the beautiful garden, hot tub, and pool over the years,” she said.

“There were weddings, anniversary, and children’s parties galore. Many hundreds of cubs swam in the pool over the years, too.”

As many recalled, Dance “absolutely loved travelling in his motorhome” and invited anyone to come along for the adventure.

Nielsen also recalled how he loved to try and make people laugh and was always cracking a joke or two.

“It used to drive us all crazy, how JD would have that darn video camera in our faces all the time. Then as we got older we all realized he had documented all of our family’s special memories,” she said.

One of Dance’s nicknames was the Dog Father. At holiday dinners, they could count on almost as many dogs as people: “Our whole family and friends are so grateful for everything he did for all of us. He will be sadly missed.”

Some family from England shared their thoughts after hearing of Dance’s passing, including Veronica Preddy.

“I was so sorry to hear that John had passed away…. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet him in Canada and England. He was such a lovely man. We had such fun when he was showing us around Langley, Vancouver, and Whistler. He was as excited as we were visiting places he hadn’t been to for a long time,” said Preddy.

“When he came to England he really enjoyed most of all, when we took him to the canals at Foxton Locks where all the barges travel from one water level to another when they journey along from place to place.

Steve Lowery also shared condolences with Gail and the family.

“John was an amazing man with a big heart just like you, this is why you two were so perfect for each other. Although you had different ways of showing it, it was still unmistakable! He will be missed by many, and forgotten by none,” Lowery said.

Michele Hall-Mccaffrey said she too will miss Dance.

“He was always kind to me, ready with a joke and his camera, his love of animals was plain to see, and he never seemed to mind our big wacky family dropping in any old time.”

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