Barb Warrior’s friendship with Kelly Ross goes back over 20 years. She describes him as a kind and generous guy who loved helping people.
“He helped my cousin evacuate from the Fort McMurray fires,” recalled Warrior on Saturday.
“He wouldn’t even take a dollar for gas. We tried to hand him a couple of 20s at the door and he said, ‘Get out of here.'”
Ross was killed on Sept. 23 when the motorcycle he was driving was struck by an SUV at Peigan Trail and 36 Street S.E. in Calgary. Police have said they are investigating whether the driver of the SUV had been drinking before the crash. A ghost bike memorial now sits at that spot.
“It’s tough driving by and seeing that bike,” said Kelly Letawsky.
Letawsky owns Johnny 5 Bar and Smokehouse on International Avenue. She didn’t know Ross but felt compelled to host a fundraiser on Saturday for his family to help cover funeral expenses. Ross leaves behind a 30-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son.
“What really touched me was when I found out that his daughter put her credit card down on the table at the funeral home and maxed her credit card out to pay for her dad’s funeral,” Letawsky said.
Ross was on his way home from an AA meeting the night he was killed. His family said he had given up drinking when his son was born.
“Kelly struggled with alcohol and he started to do better in his life, and wanted to do better for his son, who is nine, and be sober for him. Even on the bad days, he tried hard and that’s all that mattered. We were so proud of him,” Warrior said.
Calgary musicians and businesses have come forward to help with Saturday’s fundraiser. Warrior said many people also helped with a bottle drive that she organized.
She said that every little bit helps to pay for the unexpected funeral bill.
“They are hard-working people and they are not really well-off,” Warrior said.
“When something like this happens to hard-working people, it just puts a big dent in everything, and any kind of catching up that you’ve done in the last little bit goes down the drain.”
Organizers are determined to get the message out there that it’s never acceptable to drink and drive. One of the event’s sponsors is a local designated driving service. Ross’ friends are also hoping to set up an education fund for his son.
The fundraiser runs until closing time on Saturday at 3908 17 Ave. S.E.