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Whistler remembers Pique founder

Publisher Kathy Barnett killed by driver while on cycling holiday in New Zealand

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A leading figure in the community of Whistler has died in a road accident while vacationing in New Zealand.

Kathryn Jane Barnett, 49, the president, co-owner and publisher of Pique Newsmagazine was struck by a car while cycling with a bike tour near Taupo. She was with her husband, editor of Pique Newsmagazine, Bob Barnett, who was not injured.

No one else was injured in the accident, which remains under investigation by local police authorities. It is believed that the car involved was following another vehicle closely uphill on a busy, two-lane highway and the driver didn’t see Barnett until the first vehicle pulled out to give her room

The incident took place at roughly 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30. The road was closed for two hours following the crash.

As news spread through this mountain community there were tears, and a profound recognition of the rich legacy Barnett has left us all.

“Murphy (Kathy’s maiden name) was a wonderful and forceful leader and a wonderful person,” said a tearful Peter Alder, who has known Kathy for over 20 years.

“She was outspoken. She was a friend to many of us, and, well, her smile was infectious.

“This loss is just incredible. She touched so many people but she was very discreet about many of the things she did. And they were so excited about going on this trip.”

Barnett was active in a number of community and business organizations. She was a founding member and past president of the Community Foundation of Whistler, a board member of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of B.C., past chair of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, and in 2005 she was appointed to the provincial Ministry of Small Business and Revenue’s roundtable on small business.

Her experience encompassed accounting, finance, businesses administration, corporate securities, and small business management consulting.

She was also awarded the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Person of the Year award in 2002.

But the true measure of her work cannot be found in the list of her accomplishments, for it lies in the endless hours of behind the scenes work she did for a community she was deeply passionate about and for the people she cared about. She was not just part of the CFOW, she was a founding director and president; she wasn’t just a friend she was a mentor.

“She really had a role as a mentor in this community given the fact that she was a very successful female business person and a community leader,” said Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who worked with Barnett to found CFOW.

“She truly was a remarkable person… This is absolutely devastating for the community.

“She was the type of person who didn’t sit on a board because she thought it was cool to say she sat on such and such a board. She actually would come with good ideas and you could always rely on her to follow through on any kind of tasks she agreed to take on.”

And her mentoring was not just done from afar. Barnett would not hesitate to get involved and lend not just a professional hand but also a personal touch to those she believed in.

Behind the Grind owner Chris Quinlan’s coffee shop dreams came true in large part because of Barnett’s leadership and support.

“Everything is all connected to Kathy,” said Quinlan.

“I’ve been thinking about all the things we do because of Kathy, and when Kathy asks can you help, you help because you know it is right. Her spirit will always drive us. It will never ever cease.

“Despair is an appropriate word for how I feel because there is now a hole that just doesn’t fill itself in.”

And when Quinlan was ready to buy Barnett out at Behind The Grind, it was all about the success he had found.

“Her biggest joy was seeing success for other people,” he said.

That joy, said long-time friend Dave Davenport, could be seen most clearly when Barnett was with her husband.

“The most important thing to her was Bob. That’s what made her happy. All that mattered to her was Bob and if Bob was happy she was happy.

“For us in the community she was an icon. She gave so much behind the scenes. You can’t ignore what the Pique has done and what it is.”

Pique’s executive director Darren Roberts said the paper’s team is committed to upholding Barnett’s vision.

“This was Kathy’s baby and her dream,” he said.

“ Pique Newsmagazine will carry on forever, it will grow and prosper and for all of the thousands of hours that Kathy and I spent together discussing and fine tuning ideas and concepts...It is this information that will be carried to the future and help to mould the paper.

“Her presence will live on as Pique becomes even stronger.”

A fair but forceful boss, Barnett was always ready to introduce changes that would lead to a stronger and more relevant publication, said Roberts.

The long-term plan, he said, was to grow the success of the paper so more New Zealand-like trips would be possible.

Said long-time friend and Pique columnist Michel Beaudry: “ Kathy Barnett loved her mountain home with a deep and abiding passion. In everything she did she always managed to hold Whistler’s best interests above her own personal needs and wants.”

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed said Barnett’s death would be felt throughout the community.

“In this tragedy, Whistler has suffered an immense loss to the community,” he said.

“She could always be relied upon to lend her personal and professional support and business acumen to many worthwhile causes and initiatives and was a great supporter of the arts.

“Kathy will always be remembered by councils past and present and municipal staff for her integrity and her devotion to her friends and community.”

Indeed the chance to be part of Whistler was a driving force for Barnett. When she was awarded the Business Person the Year award in 2002, she had this to say: “It is an honour because it’s not just about business, this award indicated involvement in the community, mentorship, all of those things. The great part about living in a town like Whistler is that you can be involved.”

Memorial details will be released as they become available.  

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