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Fred Nowlan remembered as hard worker whose presence 'was a gift'

Fred Nowlan, a Fredericton man who cycled around collecting bottles for a living, died after a collision with a pickup truck on Saturday.  (Submitted by Jessie Yerxa/Facebook  - image credit)
Fred Nowlan, a Fredericton man who cycled around collecting bottles for a living, died after a collision with a pickup truck on Saturday. (Submitted by Jessie Yerxa/Facebook - image credit)

People in Fredericton are mourning the death of Fred Nowlan, who was riding his bicycle through the city on Saturday when he and a truck collided at a downtown corner.

Nowlan was well known for biking around collecting bottles, something he did for more than 20 years to subsidize his income after a stroke left him partially paralyzed.

Dana Clowater, manager of Exit Realty Advantage in Fredericton, knew Nowlan well.

"Fred was truly thankful for everything that people were doing for him. He always ended his conversation [with], 'I want to thank you guys for everything you're doing for me,'" said Clowater.

The Exit Realty Team and volunteers from the local community came together about five years ago to build Nowlan a shed so people who drop him off recyclebles in the same place.
The Exit Realty Team and volunteers from the local community came together about five years ago to build Nowlan a shed so people who drop him off recyclebles in the same place.

Dana Clowater said a lot of businesses in the city knew to save their recyclables for Nowlan. (Submitted by Jessie Yerxa/Facebook)

The crash happened on Saturday at around 5:10 p.m. at the intersection of Westmorland Street and King Street, according to police. Police Chief Martin Gaudet said the matter remains under investigation but witnesses and public safety cameras captured the event.

A Fredericton Police spokesperson could not provide any further details on Monday.

The Bottle Palace

Many businesses in the city saved their recyclables for Nowlan. Six years ago, some of the realtors at Exit Realty came up with the idea to set up a bottle drop for him.

It started with a bunch of garbage bins and soon evolved into a building the owners of the company paid for and Exit Realty team members and community volunteers built, Clowater said.

The spot was soon dubbed "The Bottle Palace."

Last year, Nowlan's recyclables were stolen from the shed, prompting outrage and disappointment from the community.

Fred Nowlan has biked around the City of Fredericton collecting bottles for a living for over 20 years.
Fred Nowlan has biked around the City of Fredericton collecting bottles for a living for over 20 years.

Nowlan's shed, built by the Exit Realty team and community volunteers, was dubbed 'The Bottle Palace.' (Submitted by Dana Clowater)

Clowater got police involved and installed security cameras at the shed. He also set up a donation bottle for Nowlan at the Exit Realty office, which accumulated about $300 in the span of a week.

Nowlan's death has prompted social media responses from hundreds of people, expressing condolences and sympathies to the family and sharing stories.

Jessie Yerxa, a realtor at eXp Realty, wrote on Facebook that Nowlan was the hardest worker she has ever met and that he "never missed a chance to say hello."

She said his "presence was a gift that is already missed across our city."

Clowater said he sent out an email to the agents in his office about Nowlan's death and the responses were "truly heartwarming."

"People were really saddened to hear that because, you know, Fred was well loved, well respected," said Clowater.

"When you see someone, you never expect it's going to be the last time and it makes you think back to, you know, when you saw him last, that was the last time I'll ever see him."