'He's got the bluest eyes': Saskatoon residents remember Sailor Dan
Published Wednesday, July 10, 2019 11:00AM CST
Helen Davis was wandering 20th Street a few years ago when she ran into Sailor Dan - and bought him a coffee.
One feature stood out to her.
"He's got the bluest eyes, like the colour of the Caribbean. And he said yes, he was a real sailor," she told CTV News.
Daniel James Hicks, better known in Saskatoon as Sailor Dan, died Tuesday morning. He was 65. He could often be seen at various spots in the city selling intricate drawings of ships.
"Doesn't every small town, to the biggest city, have an icon? Some character? He just seemed to be ours because you just saw him all over," Davis said.
"It's good to read all the posts on Facebook about him. Everybody has a story."
The Saskatoon Police Service said in a Facebook post that many officers, especially beat officers, saw Hicks often.
"We've seen testaments about the dignity and respect that he was often treated with and we hope it serves as a reminder of the importance of how we treat people and how it makes a difference.
"When we moved in to our Headquarters building, Cst. Derek Chesney commissioned Dan to draw one of his infamous ships. Dan even customized it to our Service, and it now proudly hangs in the Community Room," the post reads.
"May you have a brand new pen and a fresh piece of paper my friend. Rest well sailor," Chesney said on Twitter. Chesney posted several pictures of Hicks, and a link to the song "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A." by Donna Fargo, which Chesney said was one of Hicks' favourite tunes, and that he played it many times for Hicks over the years as it seemed to calm him down.
Melissa Squire, owner of Alchemy clothing store, has been selling clothing with Hicks' art for the past five years, paying him royalties. Her son was even wearing a Sailor Dan-inspired onesie on Tuesday.
"He's definitely a character, that's for sure, but he's a very giving and kind and generous man," she said.
"He was generally really nice. He would come in frequently and just hang out for a while, some days longer than others. He was very chatty. He definitely had some mental health issues but I think it's important for us to talk about that kind of thing."
The royalties from his art will now go to a local mental health organization, she said.
Another Saskatoon resident, Robin Dueck-Degen, said he was surprised at the news of Hicks' death.
"It kind of sucks. I know that he was going through a lot of issues in the end. I wish I could have bought one of his paintings, I guess. Wish I could have said something more to him. Something nice, like 'have a good day.' Something to cheer him up."
Hicks had been on remand at Saskatoon Correctional Centre and died at St. Paul’s Hospital around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, Ministry of Justice spokesperson Drew Wilby said in an email.
Foul play is not suspected nor is an overdose of any kind, Wilby said.
Hicks had been scheduled to appear in Saskatoon Provincial Court on Friday on theft and breach charges.