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Man killed in Nanaimo coffee shop was honoured by Governor General

Eric Kutzner, 79, volunteered and was a champion for people with disabilities in Creston and for seniors’ housing in Nanaimo. He received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award in 2016.
Eric Kutzner, who was killed in a Nanaimo coffee shop on Saturday morning, was a champion for people with disabilities in Creston and for seniors’ housing in Nanaimo, according to his family. VIA NANAIMO RCMP

The 79-year-old man killed in a “random” homicide in a north Nanaimo coffee shop Saturday morning had been recognized with a Governor General’s award for his volunteer work. 

In a statement, Eric Kutzner’s family called him a “vibrant member of society,” saying he regularly volunteered and was a champion for the disabled in Creston and for seniors’ housing in Nanaimo. 

In 2016, when he was living in Creston, Kutzner received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for restoring a property that housed and employed people with developmental and physical disabilities. 

A statement about the award said he dedicated numerous hours toward making the property a viable farm, producing vegetables and eggs to be sold at the local market, raising sheep for wool, and establishing a food-processing plant for drying fruits and vegetables. 

His efforts in Creston also earned him a Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. 

Kutzner died as a result of what Nanaimo RCMP have called a random homicide at Buzz Coffee House, where he worked, in a strip mall on Rutherford Road. 

James Turok, a 29-year-old Nanaimo man, has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death, and remains in custody awaiting his next court appearance. 

Police have said there is no evidence to suggest the two men knew each other. 

Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien called the crime “extremely unusual,” saying he’s never seen a case of random homicide in the community before. 

A GoFundMe page has been established by a Buzz Coffee employee, who called Kutzner “one of our dear coworkers” who was lost in “a horrible incident.” 

Kyah Hands says on the page that the goal is to raise money for the closed coffee shop’s staff members as they “make decisions and get the help we all need before they need to worry about finances.” 

She said the staffers are wonderful people “and we want to do everything we can as a community to help them through this in any way we can.” 

A total of $8,870 of the page’s $25,000 goal had been raised by mid-afternoon Wednesday. 

At Buzz Coffee, where he made baked goods, Kutzner was a “smiling face” every morning, his family said, “coming in to make sure we had fresh muffins and almond croissants.” 

“He truly cared about his family and friends and made new friends every day in his travels around Nanaimo.” 

A provincial government news release Feb. 4 about a seniors-housing project in Nanaimo quoted Kutzner in his position as director of the Woodgrove Senior Citizens Housing Society. He said the 62-home project had been in the works for four years with a goal of increasing low-cost housing for seniors. 

The family “misses him terribly,” its statement said. 

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said Kutzner was “clearly an individual that cared about his community” and the public extends it sympathy to his family. “This is a real tragedy.” 

The media is asked to respect the privacy of the family, who said in the statement they have no plans to make any further comments on his death or the investigation. 

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