Remembering Nick Dalton

Nick Dalton: “Intensity not grumpiness.”

At Hillside, he was a one-of-a-kind guy: a gifted inventor, a skilled organizer, a sharp observer, and a passionate advocate for the environment and our community. He was a board member from 2006-2011, and he sat on multiple committees during that period and afterward, helping Hillside with its volunteer program, with its search for accessible office space, and with its green initiatives. Nick pioneered the free water program at Hillside that would put an end to plastic water bottles on site. He not only worked with the City of Guelph’s Waterworks to procure a water tanker for the summer festival weekends (the first in the province), but he also invented a header with multiple taps that could be attached to the tanker for dispensing water. Hillside’s Trash Turnarounds were also Nick’s brainchild. He renovated our waste management system, creating tents with clear signage, colour-coded bins, and plant carts for moving the bins around the site. He sourced and purchased and stored components and then built the first series of Trash Turnarounds on his own. He wanted clarity of communication to be the system’s hallmark so that everyone understood how they could contribute to reducing waste. In the days before the permanent Main Stage was erected at Guelph Lake Conservation Area, Nick worked with the site crew to put together makeshift stages for performances. The flatbeds and trailers used for those stages came back to haunt him, he said, when he started planning to build the solar water heater for dishwashing at the festival. With his son, Cody, he designed and built the heater on the back of an old camper trailer that the site crew stripped down. His fondest hope was that the dishwashing volunteers would be grateful for the warm water his contraption gave them to do their hard scrubbing work and that others would be inspired by the example to opt for greener ways of powering their lives. When he did receive attention from Alternatives Journal who came out to his farm to see the solar water heater in order to write an article about it, Nick was shy and humble, gave others credit for the work, and quipped, “My head is sufficiently swollen.”

Nick could come across as gruff and opinionated. But to those who knew him and had earned his trust, he was the softest heart, the kindest man, even a bit of a sentimental dreamer. He hated to see anyone’s spirits crushed, especially by people who were controlling. He carried a torch for justice and kindness. His high school peers remember him as an athlete, a leader, a hard worker, and a real charmer. Everyone at Hillside who worked with him—be it on practical projects or big-picture board issues—remembers how incredibly articulate he could be. In emails, he would write staff long imaginative stories about his projects and plans, his reasoning and justification, and they would have strange titles, such as “Avarice and the Bookkeeper,” “Terrorizing Egos,” or “Ducks in a Row; Chickens in the Freezer.” He was always exceptionally polite in that tongue-in-cheek way he had: “Would you please be kind enough to give me a wee dingle today?” “Would you be able to grace us with your attendance on either of those evenings?” And when one of us pleaded with him to keep his “grumpiness in check” when he was in an ambassadorial role (he himself admitted he could be “a right pain in the ass”), he defended himself: “Intensity not grumpiness. It’s part of my charm. Harumph.”

We will miss his special charming intensity. During the past year, he said he was attempting to retire by doing “lots of reading on the porch with the fan and CBC on.” But he still had ambitions for Hillside and its green initiatives. We are so grateful for everything he has given us. And we send our sincere condolences to his three sons, Chris, Cody, and Colin, and to his loved ones.
Nick passed away on October 15, 2021 at the age of 67. A celebration of his life will be held at his farm in Rockwood on November 6, 2021, at 12pm. Please contact [email protected] for more details or directions. Arrangements entrusted to GILCHRIST CHAPEL – McIntyre & Wilkie Funeral Home, One Delhi Street, Guelph, (519-824-0031).
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