WHALLEY — Within days of being honoured for his big heart, the man who’s been referred to as the “guardian angel” of 135A Street died.
Doug Nickerson, also known as “Little Doug,” was recognized by the City of Surrey on Oct. 26 when he received the Heart of Our City award for saving more than 100 lives on the Whalley Strip.
Just days later, he passed away.
Having been saved five times by naloxone in his life, Nickerson was known to walk the notorious strip in Whalley on 135A Street with a naloxone kit, reversing overdoses and teaching others to do the same.
Surrey Urban Mission Society director Michael Musgrove fondly recalled Nickerson’s naloxone “swung like pistols on his belt, ready to fire at the first opportunity.”
Musgrove said he was a “pioneer” of the overdose antidote, using it long before the fentanyl epidemic.
Those who knew Doug Nickerson well say he has left a legacy of lifesaving.
“He was a very bright light in a very dark place and he not only saved a lot of lives on 135A, he motivated others to do better,” said Erin Schulte, who runs a soup kitchen on the Strip.
“He motivated others to take the training as well so they could as well save peoples’ lives,” she added. “What a legacy he has left. Him winning the Heart of Surrey award the week of his passing is so special because he so deserved it. He truly was the heart beat of 135A.”
Schulte said Nickerson’s legacy will live on.
“His legacy is in the people that have gone on to learn to save lives. As many lives as he’s changed, there are many others who are going to do the same in his name. The world lost a wonderful human being.”
Schulte described Nickerson as a “compassionate, loving, joyous, funny man.”
“He was the best hugger,” she added. “He was great with one-liners. He was a character. A very, very, very special man.”
Reached by the phone Monday, Nickerson’s 31-year-old daughter Britany said her father passed away in his home on Saturday, Oct. 28 at the age of 61.
“He received his award a couple days earlier. He went home and crawled into bed and pretty much didn’t get out of bed again,” she said.
The cause of his death isn’t yet known, she said.
In April, Nickerson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
He was given six to 12 months to live.
Despite that, Nickerson still spent his days bringing people back from the dead.
A GoFundMe Page was started for ‘Little Doug’ last summer, with the funds intended to send him to Nova Scotia to visit his parents one last time before his passing.
Identification issues prevented him from taking the trip, and then his low energy levels prevented him from making the visit.
Donations are now said to have now been given to Nickerson’s family to cover the funeral costs.
Longtime homelessness advocate Jonquil Hallgate knew Nickerson well.
“Doug represents people who have been homeless for extended periods of time, who are often vilified because they’re homeless and yet he had a heart of gold,” she said after learning of his death. “He was so concerned about the people in the community who were at risk of overdose and he really did pioneer the whole naloxone in the community, and certainly amongst peers.”
She recalled Nickerson once telling her that he knew he could stay housed, but that until all of his friends were off of 135A Street, he would stay with them.
“It was only when he became sick that he accepted housing,” she added.
Hallgate said Nickerson’s death is a loss for those living on 135A Street.
“He was the voice of a lot of people who weren’t able to speak for themselves,” she said. “In many way he was our conscience.”
In an interview with the Now-Leader last July, Nickerson talked about his struggles with addiction.
He also spoke of being a born-again Christian, raised as a Baptist preacher’s child.
“That’s what gives me the strong standards that I have today,” said Nickerson. “That, you’ll have to thank my parents, for the way they brought me up.”
-With files from Tom Zytaruk