‘Brody was so kind to everyone:’ community shares memories of Humboldt Broncos statistician
There’s an extra chair in vice-principal David Millette’s office at Humboldt Collegiate Institute.
It’s a black leather love seat with wide armrests.
Millette calls it “Brody’s chair.”
Brody Hinz was one of the 16 victims killed in last year’s Humboldt Broncos bus crash. The 18-year-old Hinz was the team’s statistician.
Before the accident, Hinz would pop into Millette’s office almost every day of the week for a conversation – usually about sports.
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Losing Hinz has a left a hole.
“A real big one,” Millette says. “You don’t just replace a guy like Brody.”
On the anniversary of the tragedy, Hinz is being remembered as someone who gave more than he received. If there was ever something he could do to help someone, or a place he could volunteer, Hinz was there.
Cory Popoff, the principal at HCI, says Hinz participated in every aspect of the community.
“Brody holds a special part in all of our hearts – and we are still grieving,” Popoff says.
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Hinz was just a few months away from graduating in spite of some personal challenges. He was on the autism spectrum. He’d been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Popoff’s wife, Darlene, was Hinz’s principal in elementary school. One of the most painful things, she says, is that Hinz didn’t get to finish high school.
“He had come so far,” says Darlene Popoff. “He was was so hopeful about his future and his path. To see that come to an end — that was hard.”
Hinz turned a passion for numbers into a position as the Broncos’ statistician, but it was not his only job.
He volunteered at his church, at a community kitchen, and at a local radio station. Hinz also competed in floor hockey and bowling in the Special Olympics.
Hinz was a backup offensive lineman for the high school football team. An injury sidelined him in his last season, but he stuck around and served as the team’s equipment manager.
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“There aren’t many people in our school that everybody gets along with,” says Bray Berchiminsky, a linebacker on the team. “He could instantly put a smile on your face. He was always happy.”
In the days after the crash, classmates remembered Hinz with a tribute at this locker.
“Everyone was signing it,” says Carter Tarnowski. “You knew he wouldn’t be using that locker anymore. It was kind of surreal.”
The locker was eventually repainted and another student is using it this year. There is a display about the bus crash in the common area at the entrance to the school, but grief counsellors decided that keeping the locker as a memorial would be too difficult a memory.
Karla Gardiner teaches in a classroom just a few metres away and says she still thinks of Hinz every time she passes.
“Brody was so kind to everyone,” Gardiner says. “He never judged people. We learned that from Brody.”
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