On Wednesday morning, the University of the Fraser Valley rowing program held its annual memorial row in honour of Jen Simpson.
Simpson, a Cascades rower, died tragically in a car accident while driving home from work on Jan. 27, 2008. The accident was likely caused by icy road conditions. She was 20 years old.
UFV’s rowers gathered at their home venue, the Bedford Channel in Fort Langley, on Wednesday morning and rowed east towards the sunrise. One of the boats in the Cascades’ procession has been christened “Jen’s Boat – Big Bison” and bears those words in pink lettering. On the river, head coach Liz Chisholm spoke to the group about what Simpson meant to the team during her time at UFV. Then they observed a minute of silence, and released pink flowers into the water – pink was Simpson’s favourite colour.
Though Simpson’s time at UFV didn’t overlap with any of the current Cascades rowers, the annual memorial is a reflection of the tight-knit kinship of the rowing community.
“I think it’s important for the rowers to realize their similarities to each other as human beings, and how fragile life is,” Chisholm said.
“Jen was just really coming into the varsity part of rowing. She was a gymnast, so she was simply an excellent athlete. She was very serious about the sport, but she had the best sense of humour. She was known in her KPE classes and on the rowing team as being gracious but hilarious. I remember her dedication, and her teammates remember her sense of humour.
“Knowing our sport gave Jen such happiness is a good thing.”
Simpson’s legacy with the Cascades rowing program has endured, and her life’s impact continues through an athletic leadership award established by her parents and friends. Each year, the award recognizes a Cascades student-athlete who exhibits leadership qualities in UFV’s athletic program and in the greater community. Simpson is also memorialized on a bench on the UFV Abbotsford campus, outside the Envision Athletic Centre.