In concrete terms, Nick Discepola’s legacy in Kirkland is impossible to miss. During his tenure as town mayor from 1989 to 1993 he oversaw the building of Kirkland’s stylish city hall and library on Hymus Blvd. and a Kirkland street was named for him in 1994.
In human terms, his legacy as a politician and a husband, father and brother runs deep.
Discepola succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto on Nov. 21. He was 62.
A funeral service will be held Monday, Nov. 26, at 11 a.m. at St. Brendan Church on Rosemont Blvd. in Montreal.
“As a child, he was always doing the unexpected,” older brother Marino Discepola said. “He got me into a lot of trouble and our mother always punished us equally, no matter who was really responsible.”
Discepola was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumour (NET) in 2008 and fought back with expensive treatments, writing about the ordeal online (http://www.fairtreatment.ca/real-stories/nick-Discepola/)
(His wife successfully battled blood cancer over a decade ago and is still in remission.)
“He defined stubbornness and perseverance,” Marino Discepola said. “And the most important thing for him in his life was family.”
Discepola and wife Mary Alice relocated to Toronto to be closer to their two daughters Lisa and Laura around eight years ago. Their son Michele is living and working in Singapore and son Marco is studying in Montreal.
Kirkland mayor John Meaney first met Discepola in the early 1980s when they were both Kirkland councillors.
“He always had a detailed schedule,” Meaney said. “He wanted things to be just so, and he would make sure people followed his plan to the letter. We call this city hall his baby.”
With Discepola at the helm, Kirkland was named one of Canada’s Top 10 towns based on quality of life and city-hall administration.
When Discepola left municipal politics to run for federal office, Meaney helped him with his campaign.
“I remember putting posters up on the Trans-Canada Highway and freezing to death,” Meaney said with a chuckle. “(Current Kirkland director general) Joe Sanalitro helped me. We both know every inch of that highway and all the back roads now.”
Discepola served as a member of parliament for the federal Liberal Party for the riding of Vaudreuil from 1993-1997 and for the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges from 1997-2004. He was defeated by the Bloc Québécois’ Meili Faille.
After the 2004 defeat, Discepola never slowed down. He renovated his house in Kirkland, his home in Florida and when he moved to Toronto, he built a new home.
“He just couldn’t keep still,” Marino Discepola said. “He was constantly busy.”
Meaney remembers Discepola’s dry sense of humour and he remembers his pride.
“Nick was very proud of being Italian — a boy from St. Leonard,” Meaney said.
Discepola was born in Volturara Irpina, a town in the Campania region of the province of Avellino, Italy. He moved to Canada with his parents and only brother when he was nine years old.
“He became friends with a good group of guys at John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel and got really involved in track and field and student council,” Marino Discepola said. “And he was a very successful businessman (in the computer business).”
Former Liberal MNA Sam Elkas met Discepola in the early 1980s when Elkas was Kirkland’s mayor and Discepola was a freshly-minted councillor.
“He was a joy to work with and he showed leadership qualities at an early stage in his career,” Elkas said. “The last time I saw him was at Italian Night (in Kirkland) last November. He looked frail, but he was fighting.”
It was at Discepola’s insistence that Elkas, back when he was mayor, introduce an Italian Night.
“He contributed so much to the region,” Elkas said. “He brought his business expertise to the table. He loved challenges and rarely gave up a fight for what he wanted for his constituents.”
Elkas was shaken when Meaney called him Wednesday night to tell him the news.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Elkas said. “We knew it was coming, but it still hit hard. He was a good friend.
“Nick enjoyed a good laugh. He could be a serious individual, but he sure knew how to contribute to a good time.”