If there’s one thing that stood out about Joshua Ribble, it was his heart.
“I don’t know how else to describe Josh,” said Patti Grubisich, a family friend of Josh’s who calls herself his second mom.
“He had the biggest heart going.”
Over the last three and a half years, since his arrival in Golden, Josh has woven his way into the community fabric, with people around town taking time out of their day to talk with or help the man with the big heart.
Often he could be found sitting outside of Zodiac Hemp, or around 7-Eleven. Not one to live a materialistic life, Josh lived in a tent on the outskirts of town.
Golden no longer has this individual to shine bright in the community as Josh died on Aug. 6, falling from his bike and into the Columbia River.
Hailing from southwestern Ontario, he was born in Leamington to a single mom, Debbie, and partially raised in Kingsville, a medium-sized town on the shores of Lake Erie, before his family eventually moved to Windsor to settle down.
Grubisich helped out as best as she could with his mother, an inseparable pair of friends since Grade 10, volunteering to babysit Josh and spending so much time with him that she eventually became a second mom to him.
Arrival in Golden
Arriving in Golden about three years ago, Josh was desperate to see the mountains.
It’s a testament to how much he loved the community that he braved the elements, living in a tent through Golden’s harsh winters and weathering extreme temperatures in order to stay in the mountains.
“I never thought he would last as long as he did out there, living in a tent in the elements,” said Grubisich.
Grubisich said that she was always kept up to date on him, that everything was okay.
When Josh would lose contact for a bit, she would contact local businesses that were known to help him out, like Jen Lee at Zodiac Hemp, who would fill her in.
Lee explained she first met Josh by helping out a bit here and there when she would see him, giving him some change or buying him a meal.
Over a few months, they quickly formed a friendship, which resulted in Josh coming to visit her at Zodiac Hemp, where he was often seen sitting on the stump outside her shop front.
“He borrowed my phone quite a bit and that’s how I met Patti,” said Lee.
“He came to borrow it one day and he just went handed me back my phone and said, ‘Here, it’s my mom, she wants to talk to you.’ We organized on the phone and that’s when I learned he had Huntington’s.”
Grubisich said that the family long suspected that Josh had Huntington’s, although he was never formally diagnosed, despite pushes from his family.
She explained his slurred speech and wobbly gait were symptoms of the disease, which claimed the life of his birth father.
“But the signs were there that he had it, and that’s why I think he went to Golden. He wanted to see the mountains before he passed,” said Grubisich.
Community around him
The outpouring of support for Josh has been amazing over the years, according to Grubisich.
“Even the grocery store, when I would get gift cards for him, or the post office when he didn’t have a mailing address and still allowing me to send boxes for him, everybody compromised for me to make sure that he had what he needed.”
St. Paul’s Thrift Shop, behind Abbeyfield, helped outfit Josh with whatever he needed to survive, from tents and camping gear to warm clothes and jackets for winter.
“We saw him pretty much every week that we were open and he was always so thankful. He wasn’t left stranded needing supplies,” said Jackie Casey, who manages the thrift shop.
Currently in Golden, there are no shelters for houseless men in the area.
The Golden Women’s Resource Centre offers a women’s shelter, which is managed by the Golden Safe Home program and funded by BC Housing.
However, there’s a gap in service for men.
Of the 151 emergency shelters in the province listed by BC Housing, the closest to Golden is in Cranbrook.
The Golden Family Centre and the social advocate at the Golden Community Co-op can help individuals experiencing houselessness by connecting them with resources, such as filling out applications for income assistance or redirecting people into the proper channels depending on their needs.
The Family Centre dedicates 7.5 hours a week to offering men’s-specific programming.
While bthe Family Centre had reached out to Josh throughout his time in Golden, Josh declined help, preferring to live in his tent.
No longer sitting outside the Zodiac Hemp or 7-Eleven, Josh will be missed from the streets of Golden.
His impact on the community has never been more evident, as people came together to memorialize a man who led a simple life.
“I hope people remember him as a good person because he truly was. He was just in a situation that was difficult to come out of, but he did his best,” said Casey.
Josh will be returned to Ontario with arrangements being made to bring him and his belongings home.
Several memorials have taken place in his honour.
Casey floated the idea of hosting a fundraiser to help cover the costs of bringing Josh home.
Lee says Zodiac Hemp will be creating a mural outside their store, honouring his favourite place, sitting at the stump just outside her front door.