Gleaming, honking and rumbling, they rolled through Squamish on Saturday — nearly 80 trucks forming a procession for a well-known local couple who died with COVID-19 earlier this month.
Gail and Merrill Ross died just 17 hours apart.
“If it wasn’t for COVID, they definitely still would be with us, and we would be celebrating all the birthdays and Christmases and stuff that are coming ahead. We’re going to miss them terribly,” son Alan Ross told Global News.
“I still hear my phone ring and I think it’s them. It’s been tough, it’s been really tough,” added daughter Leanne Ball.
The couple moved to Squamish in 1969, where Merrill worked as a truck driver for more than five decades.
“Right up until he went to the hospital,” Alan said.
The couple in their 70s both contracted COVID-19 several weeks ago and passed away on May 5 and 6 at Lions Gate Hospital.
The final days were tough for the family, who said they dared not tell their mom how badly Merrill’s condition had deteriorated.
“We couldn’t really tell her the truth because we wanted to help her get better, because she was sad, lonely, scared, all these horrible emotions she was going through,” Alan said.
“Of course, with COVID, we couldn’t visit her in the hospital and that was very difficult.”
As the family reeled from losing both parents at once, Squamish’s trucking community stepped up to help.
Merrill’s truck was polished to a shine and adorned with a memorial banner, and dozens of his former colleagues turned out for a noisy and joyful procession.
“Merrill and Gayle, this wasn’t how their story was supposed to end, COVID wasn’t supposed to do this to them,” memorial organizer Darren Doak of JR Transport said.
“We couldn’t have a funeral for anybody … if you don’t have a funeral, there’s no end. So this is one way we had to send it up to end it, and they deserved it.”
After rumbling up and down downtown Squamish, the procession returned to their departure point to pay their final respects to the humble couple that left an outsized impression on the community.
“I’m so proud of this town and what they’re doing for my Mom and Dad,” Ball said.