GANDER, NL – Physically and emotionally, it has been a tough day for Justin Anstey.
But with each passing lap at the Swim for Hope cancer fundraiser in Gander on Feb. 23, the Twillingate man is honouring the memory of his father, Aubrey Anstey.
Aubrey was an avid swimmer – up to six times a week – and a strong supporter of the Swim for Hope event.
Related: Aubrey Anstey Swims for Hope
Sadly, Aubrey died before the next Swim for Hope would take place. He was 71 years old.
After his passing, Justin said he and his brother Sean and mother Claudia were thinking about a tribute for Aubrey.
“After going through some of his stuff, after he passed away, one thing I came to realize was how much he believed in the Swim for Hope,” Justin said.
Money raised from the provincewide fundraiser is shared between the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care Foundation and the participating swim clubs, which are members of Swimming Newfoundland and Labrador.
According to Swimming NL, Swim for Hope has raised over S2 million since its inception.
“Originally, (Aubrey) took it on in support of his sister, Doreen Shallow, who was battling cancer at the time. And after her passing, he continued to swim in her memory,” said Justin.
“He always said he would continue to swim laps for as long as he could, so I’m doing this in his honour.”
Justin has raised nearly $3,000 for the fundraiser.
At the time of the interview, he had completed 200 of the 400 pool laps, equalling 10-kilometres.
Emotionally, he said it’s been a trying day.
“When I drove in from Twillingate this morning, it was a long drive in, I came in with tears in my eyes,” Justin said with a shaky voice.
Holding a vial on a chain around his neck containing a portion of is father’s ashes, he continued, “But I have a feeling I’ll have a smile on my face when I leave this evening, because there’s no doubt he was here with me today while I swam.”
Karen Maloney, head supervisor of the Joseph R. Smallwood Arts and Culture Centre pool, used to see Aubrey every day.
“He was a very determined man…in wanting to take on this Swim for Hope – 400 laps - for his sister,” said Maloney. “I was always very proud of him for that.”
She said Aubrey was also well liked at the pool, and always stopped to have a chat and was quick with a joke.
“Even to this day – approximately seven months after his passing – he is still mentioned every day by our regular swimmers,” she said. “And I think that truly speaks to how much he was appreciated and well-liked here.”
To honour his memory, the Swim for Hope opening ceremonies at 4 p.m. today will include a memorial plaque unveiling and an Aubrey Anstey Memorial Penny Swim.
It’s a gesture certainly appreciated by his family.
“On behalf of mom, Sean and myself, I can’t thank everyone enough for what they have done to honour my father’s memory,” he said.