The death – and the life – of a retired Mennonite Brethren pastor made front page news in Saskatoon’s Star Phoenix Jan. 13.
Victor Nickel, 83, died in a pedestrian-vehicle accident in Saskatoon Jan. 8. Nickel, first described in the police report as “a man in his 60s,” was hit by a semi-tractor unit while crossing Idylwyld Drive North.
The newspaper article, written by Lana Haight and titled “A pastor to the people,” described Nickel’s daily routine: walking up and down the street with a white wagon behind him, collecting bottles and cans. He earned about $300 from his recycling each month, and gave it to missions, charities, and people in need.
Nickel was well known in the neighbourhood. “He would take time to talk to anyone he came into contact with and to listen to them,” a gas station employee told Haight. “His biggest concern was pointing them to God and letting them know that he cared, but more importantly, that Jesus cared about them.”
In good weather, Nickel rode his bicycle, but when it was slippery, he walked. He started early, and covered miles every day. Described as “the pastor to the coffee crowd at McDonald’s,” Nickel regularly stopped to have coffee with people, sometimes buying a second cup to bring to a shut-in.
Nickel earlier served as pastor in several Saskatchewan communities, including Hague, Watrous, Glenbush, Carrot River, and Meadow Lake, and in Alberta and B.C. When he and his wife Katie retired to Saskatoon, they made their new neighbourhood their parish.
Besides Victor Nickel’s ministry of coffee, cans, and conversation, the couple shared vegetables from their garden and repaired furniture and bicycles for those in need.
Nickel would have comforted the driver of the truck involved in the accident, his son Phil told the Star Phoenix reporter. “He would have talked to him face-to-face. He would want to say that he loved him and that Jesus loved him.”
People from his former churches as well as the neighbourhood posted comments on the newspaper’s memorial website. “I won’t forget him,” said one. “He had such a passion for the Lord.”
“I only knew him from his daily jaunts,” wrote another, adding, “I will cherish the small Bible he gave me.”
—Dora Dueck, from reports