It’s with a very heavy heart that I write today about the sudden passing of one of the pillars of the online Saab community in general and the Dutch Saab community in particular – Nic Schellekens.
Nic passed away on Tuesday morning. He had recently been undergoing tests for cancer in Holland and was still awaiting a full diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan. I don’t know the precise circumstances surrounding his passing (update: apparently it was a pulmonary embolism) but suffice to say it was most unexpected and deeply tragic.
I first met Nic online in 2009 as GM were looking to sell Saab. He was pretty well connected and we cautiously shared information here and there about the sale of Saab and what was happening with it. I first met Nic in person at the Saab Festival in 2010. He was one of the Mad Dutchies who got up to all sorts of good-natured hijinks at the event.
Many Saab fans won’t have met Nic personally but would most likely be very aware of his work. Nic, along with others, put in a lot of the legwork to make the Dutch Saab Support Convoy – the first one organised – such a success in 2010. He was also instrumental in conceiving and organising the We Are Many, We Are Saab events in January 2012.
I can’t write with any real knowledge of his whole life. We were only recent but fast friends. What I can say, though, from my own observation is that Nic was a larger-than-life man with a larger-than-life personality and a seemingly endless capacity to care about and act on behalf of the people and things he held dearest. He was a guy who touched you by his example, whose self-giving compelled others to be as open with him as he was with them.
Nic was the first openly gay man that I formed a friendship with. I don’t mean to bring that up as if it’s part of defining Nic as a person. It’s more about defining me and my sheltered, phobia-prone upbringing. Nic didn’t know it, but he opened my eyes to a lot that had been wrong with my world, simply by being himself. He was obviously very much in love with and committed to his partner, Johan, but also cared deeply and demonstratively for his former wife, Pauline. I stayed a Nic’s place for a few days and met both Johan and Pauline in February 2012, and the depth of these relationships was obvious for all to see.
But that’s the thing about Nic – he was an open book, without pretence. He simply got down to the act of living and doing what he could to make the world a better place for the people around him. He and Johan had recently bought and renovated a guesthouse in France but trips back to Holland were a regular feature of their lives.
The three things I’ll associate most with Nic – his family and friends, his love for all things Saab, and his dogs. Nic, Johan and Pauline were all passionate about their dogs, which were all labradors including one retired and one working guide dog.
Trish and I were both absolutely devastated upon hearing this news earlier today (she’d also met Nic in 2010 and spoke with him many times on Skype). It’s fair to say I can’t really believe that he’s gone. Nic and I swapped emails just a few days ago, where he told me about his initial cancer diagnosis and briefly outlined what this coming week would entail. We hadn’t spoken on Skype for a couple of months, but as I think about it it’s like I can hear his voice – the most memorable and oft-repeated words being a deep, growling Coooobus! as he told his beloved black labrador off for doing something naughty 🙂
Nic, my friend, you have left a massive hole in the lives of people around you. You’d be embarrassed if you knew just how much you’re going to be missed. You’d be gracious and kind – and then you’d tell us to get on with it. A man of action, is Nic.
Rest peacefully, mate. Gone far, far too soon.