'Kindness was his brand': Man who fell through ice while rescuing dog remembered for selflessness

·2 min read
Rob White, 55, fell through the ice of the North Saskatchewan River on Tuesday while attempting to rescue a dog near Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park. (Submitted by Chris Barrett - image credit)
Rob White, 55, fell through the ice of the North Saskatchewan River on Tuesday while attempting to rescue a dog near Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park. (Submitted by Chris Barrett - image credit)

A man who attempted to rescue a woman's dog before falling through the ice of the North Saskatchewan River is being remembered for his kindness and unique personality.

Friends have identified the man as Rob White, 55. White was walking his dog near Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park on Tuesday before he attempted the rescue.

"He saw somebody in distress. Somebody who needed help. He tied his dog up and went out and did it," said Chris Barrett, White's friend for nearly three decades. "In the paper, all kinds of people are second-guessing what you would do, what you wouldn't do, but that's Rob. It wouldn't have been a thought.

"Kindness was his brand."

After falling through the ice White was carried down the river toward an ice shelf near Groat Bridge but emergency crews weren't able to retrieve him before losing sight of him.

The dog was rescued about a half-hour after Edmonton Fire Rescue Services were dispatched on Tuesday. Fire crews called off the search for White almost three hours later. He's presumed dead.

For Barrett, it was devastating to hear that his close friend had been involved in a tragic rescue attempt after White's wife notified him. He says White was selfless and had an urge to help others, even strangers.

Chris Barrett sits at his home computer where he has been reminiscing over the photos and videos of Rob White, a close friend of nearly three decades.
Chris Barrett sits at his home computer where he has been reminiscing over the photos and videos of Rob White, a close friend of nearly three decades.(Travis McEwan/CBC)

Barrett recalls a time when he was in the passenger side of a vehicle White was driving when he brought it to a halt in heavy traffic to help a person who stumbled off a sidewalk.

"He wouldn't think about that stuff he would just do it," Barrett said.

White was most recently working as a scaffolder. Barrett describes him as an artist who created unique large sculptures made out of papier mâché. He also played bass in a band with Barrett.

His family lives on the Edmonton street known as Candy Cane Lane, where residents deck out their homes as an annual Christmas tradition. White's home was known for having snowmen set up in the dining room, lit up so people driving by could see inside.

White is survived by his wife and two sons.

White was working on a few books, and Barrett is hoping one of them is published as a tribute to his friend, who he says was known for making genuine connections with people.

Rob White is being remembered as an artist and musician known for his selflessness.
Rob White is being remembered as an artist and musician known for his selflessness.(Submitted by Chris Barrett)

"Whatever way you remember him, that was real. That was what he intended," Barrett said.