By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Feb 2, 2014
There are masks to be chiselled, salad bowls to be carved, and totem poles waiting to be sharpened. And then there is the new custom door Patricia Heintzman has yet to begin work on.
There is a lot Patricia Heintzman (or Patty, with affection) had planned for the free time she was going to have. But since the prefix Mayor has come to attach to her name, some of these will just have to wait.
What the new Mayor half-jokingly refers to her task number ‘872’ is visible the moment you park in the driveway of her home, a dreamy, mossy retreat of a dwelling in Paradise Valley.
Covering the doorway are tarps and reclining in the corner is the door that is waiting for the glass inlay. In her yard, her newest buy, a Shopsmith Mark V machine, waits for some action. She bought it to build the doorway and fix a boat and ready it for sea.
She’s never really built a custom door before, but between the dense manual, YouTube, and the web, she will find a way.
“If you ask the right questions, you can learn quickly,” she says.
Products of right questions, curiosity, and an unquenchable desire to learn something new are strewn around her living room.
In her living room you will find newly upholstered chairs, her grandfather’s old trunk turned into a coffee table with metal hairpin legs, and an unfinished cajon she is fashioning out a Peruvian drum.
She has no interest in the generic.
“I have to do something out of the box,” she says.
Her next project is to make a cigar box guitar for her godson, Spencer Dyer. She picks up a cigar box and flips it open and studies for a moment its nooks.
“Really, the trick is to find a good cigar box,” she says, smiling.
The trick for Patty is to discover something new, even if it’s something as mundane as moving the furniture around every few months to give her living room a fresh new look.
In fact, she is happiest when she is doing something for the very first time, says her brother Douglas Heintzman.
He recalls a family trip to Yosemite National Park, where they hiked the Half Dome. While the family took in the view, Doug saw his sister walk right to the edge, lie down on her stomach and inch closer to look at the view below her.
“She was so comfortable at that edge,” Doug recalls.
Heintzman says she is happiest when she is about to board a plane to experience a new country. She has visited over 40 countries, survived trampling by an elephant, rebels looking for westerners in Tanzania, and a bad bout of dengu fever that almost shut her kidney. A week after recovering from the fever, she hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro with her friend.
If she wasn’t a municipal politician, she would have been working in somewhat far off place with a NGO or be a National Geographic photographer, she says. Photography, in fact, first brought her to Squamish.
She was born in Toronto, where her great-grandfather, Theodore August Heintzman, started the famous Heintzman Pianos. But she grew up in Montreal, where her father worked for IBM.
At school, she was good at almost anything she put her mind to, recalls her sister, Susan Heintzman, who went to school with her.
“She was an all-around person, she was an athlete, academics came easily to her, she was an artist, and she was the vice-president of the student council,” Susan recalls.
Her sports involvement reads like an athletics roll call: Tennis, basketball, track and field, ringette, softball, figure skating and then varsity hockey.
She decided to take kinesiology at McMaster University in hopes of becoming a doctor, but ended up with a degree in history followed by a photography course in Sheridan College.
She applied to a reporter-photographer job in Revelstoke and then came to Squamish in 1993 to work for the Squamish Chief newspaper. On her very first day, she volunteered at the Brackendale Eagle Count.
Her first thoughts after seeing hundreds of eagles: “I can’t believe such a place actually exists.”
After working at the Chief for three years, she started a coffee style paper called The Weekly Addiction and later partnered with Natalie Pearlman to start a magazine called 99 North.
She became a councillor in 2005. And even though she became a Mayor in 2014, her friends had proclaimed that title for her in parties many years ago. Someone even made a shirt and a coffee mug which said Patty for Mayor.
“I have them somewhere,” she says, smiling.
In the next four years, besides her duties as a mayor, she says she wants to write more, learn how to be a better drummer, and practice so she can play Bohemian Rhapsody on her ukulele someday.
And she may be able to find some time to work on her door.
“The plan is to put a glass pane in it, but you never know what I may end up with,” she says.