Beloved Agassiz youth advocate dies at 66

Ernest Middleton ‘helped people everywhere he went’

A man who spent nearly 15 years dedicated to Agassiz, to youth and to anyone who needed a hand or a smile passed away at 66 years old in Victoria Nov. 8.  

Ernest Middleton literally wore his heart on his sleeve. The lifetime youth worker had a heart tattoo on the upper side of his forearm and while his son, Christopher Middleton, never asked its meaning, he has a pretty good idea.

“He helped people everywhere he went,” Christopher says. “I thought it was just Agassiz but it was Victoria as well. It was insane, the amount of people that he touched in his life.”

Christopher has a black folder full with pages of certificates, letters and thank you’s from Middleton’s youth work around the Lower Mainland.

He says it was his father’s past that led him to pursue youth work. “My father experienced the foster systems first hand and he had so much sadness in life,” says Christopher. “He found his pride in helping youth.”

Middleton worked in Agassiz from 1992 to 2006 as a child care worker, youth outreach and advocate and family support provider. He helped people struggling with abuse and addiction. When it came to helping the people of Agassiz, Middleton was a jack of all trades.

“He treated everybody the same,” recalls Christopher. “He went above and beyond.”

Middleton started the Agassiz Youth Centre and supervised it for five years, bringing a huge variety of programs to youth in the community. “Nights Alive” was a particular favourite for Agassiz teens, who enjoyed late-night hockey games and sock hop dances.

“He would always make sure there was something for the youth,” says Christopher, adding that it was he and his dad who raised the money to put in Agassiz’s skate park.

Melissa Leslie spent her teen years in Agassiz and went to to the youth centre often. She says it was a place where she and her friends, who often felt misread or out place in the community, could go to relax and feel safe.

“Ernest was a very big in giving the youth somewhere to go and getting them off of the streets,” she says. “We could speak freely and be ourselves.”

Leslie says Middleton was caring and approachable, someone to talk to for kids who needed some adult guidance.

“He was always somebody I felt like I could talk to my problems about,” she recalls. “It was very non-judgmental. Whatever it was we needed help with, he would do whatever he could to help us.”

“He was a wonderful man,” Leslie adds. “He’s going to be missed by a lot of people and he sure did a lot for us as kids. And without Ernest, there wouldn’t have been a youth [centre].”

Along with outreach work, Middleton assisted the RCMP with crisis support, helping youths and families facing adversity. “With a youth that was in distress, if [they] needed someone to talk to or someone to be there by [their] side, to talk to a judge, my dad would be that person,” says Christopher.

It was Middleton’s ability to communicate and empathize with young people that led the Agassiz RCMP to request his attendance on scene at an incident in May, 1998.

Middleton talked an armed youth out of self-harm.

A letter addressed to Middleton from the Agassiz detachment reads: “As a result of your presence and communication skills, and by your being able to relate to this person, he surrendered peacefully and without incident.”

With plans to return to Agassiz for retirement, one of Middleton’s final Facebook posts reads: “The happiest time of my life lasted [sic] fifteen years watching and supporting a whole generation of children grow into [the] finest loving adults in a community I will never forget…”

While he no doubt changed the course of many Agassiz lives, Christopher says his father really just wanted to bring joy to the people around him. “He just wanted everyone to smile and be happy.”

[gps-image name=”9612172_web1_171130-AHO-M-Middleton.jpg”]

 

Just Posted

Agassiz teacher’s Amazing Race takes students on Canada-wide adventure

AESS student say they had the experience of a life time

WATCH: Brother of missing Hope woman makes emotional appeal for more media attention

Next search for Shawnee Inyallie Nov. 18 along Highway 1 towards Boston Bar

Gas price drop expected to hit Fraser Valley today

Analyst says to take advantage, warns slight increase may follow

Players Guild challenges Chilliwack residents to solve classic Agatha Christie whodunit mystery

The Chilliwack Players Guild is performing Murder on the Nile from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

B.C. to fund gender-affirming surgeries for transgender people

Roughly 100 people in B.C. travel each year out of province for lower surgeries

U.S. mayor and dying dog’s roadtrip to B.C. goes viral

First vacation in three years came a month after blood cancer diagnosis

Federal fall update expected to offer more support for struggling news industry

Ottawa committed $50 million over five years for local journalism in ‘underserved communities’ last budget

UK’s May appeals to public on Brexit, braces for more blows

British Prime Minister Theresa May answered questions from callers on a radio phone-in, the day after she vowed to stay in office

VIDEO: Stan Lee leaves posthumous message for his fans

Marvel Comics’ co-creator died on Monday at the age of 95

$136M in transit funding coming to B.C.

The announcement was made at the BC Transit yard in Langford on Friday morning

Ottawa apologizes to Japanese family in B.C. after chopping historic cherry trees

Plaque installed in Prince Rupert to honour the memory of Shotaro Shimizu

Two B.C. police officers, held in Cuba for months, cleared of sex assault allegations

Port Moody Const. Jordan Long and Vancouver Const. Mark Simms have been in Cuba since March

Most Read