Friday, February 21, 2020

Rob Dekany and his boat are here to help

When your nickname becomes synonymous with good deeds, you know you’ve done something right.
That’s the case for Rob Dekany, better known as Uber Rob.
The New Brunswick Union member used his boat to help the people of Darling’s Island reach the mainland during the two most recent floods in the province.
His first steps towards earning the nickname occurred during the flooding in 2018 when he noticed the water on the road heading into the island was much higher than in years past.
“I saw a woman in chest waders with the water up past her waist and she was carrying a young child on her shoulders to try and get to her vehicle parked on the mainland side,” he said. “I remember thinking, if she trips or happens to walk off the road, it could be a catastrophe that could claim two lives.”
He immediately went home and put his 19-foot fish and ski boat into the water. He headed back to the Darling’s Island side of the road and just started asking people if they needed a lift to the other side.
It would prove to be the right decision as the water continued to rise to the point that walking was no longer possible. However, the task was monumental as no other boats or agencies were in the water during the early days of the flood, it was just Uber Rob going back and forth.
“It got overwhelming pretty quickly. I was going from five or six in the morning to 10 or 11 at night,” he said. “Plus I had signs posted with my number telling people to call me anytime in case of emergency.”
Those calls came.
“A woman had a stroke or something of that nature at one in the morning,” he said. “I rushed over and, with a group of people, took her to the other side. Working together, it potentially saved her life.”
Community spirit and resolve it something Dekany often brings up when talking about the floods. Volunteers from the area helped build and install wharfs on both sides to help with pickups and drop offs.
“Volunteers just started showing up ready to help in any way they could,” he said. “Before long we became very efficient and worked well as a community.”
Dekany estimates he spent 13 days, 130 hours and helped about 5,000 during the flood.
“Some days it was nice, others it was snowing or raining with lots of debris in the water,” he said. “Fatigue was certainly setting in, but the need to help people kept me going.”
On May 13, 2018 the flood waters receded and people got back to their normal way of life. However, they weren’t done with Dekany as they threw him a farewell party complete with a buffet dinner inside of the covered bridge.
“It was a really humbling experience. I received so many thank you cards, especially the ones from young kids who took the time to draw me a picture. That really tugged at my heart strings.”
He was back the following year when flood waters once again made it impossible to pass without a boat. This time he was joined by a film crew.
“I was contacted by David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things,” Dekany said. “They ended up coming to my place, stayed for six days and filmed the flood. They will be airing the episode sometime in late summer or early fall.”
While there were many memorable moments during the two flood seasons, there’s one particular instance that has a special place in his heart.
In the midst of the 2018 flood, a woman living in a Quispamsis nursing home, along with an aide, showed up with a request. She had lived much of her life on Darling’s Island asked Dekany if he could take her on one last boat ride through the area she loved.
“She was 98, I think she said, and I took her out for a ride,” Uber Rob said.
As they drove around, they came across a flooded baseball field.
“I asked her if she wanted to play a game of baseball and she said, ‘sure,’” he said. “I boated over home plate and pretended to hit a baseball with a stick I had found floating around. I floored it around the bases and slid the boat into home plate.”
Upon crossing the plate Dekany said the elderly lady had tears in her eyes and said how much fun she had on the trip.
“It’s those kinds of moments and those feelings that make me want to help people every year.”