THE ADVOCATE 897
VOL. 77 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2019
By R.C. Tino Bella
Billy came from a large Ukrainian family of ten children.
He grew up on a small farm in the beautiful
Coldstream Valley near Vernon. He went to UBC and
obtained an honours degree in bacterial biology and
then a degree in law. He was a criminal defence
lawyer starting in Gastown in the early ’70s, then in
Prince George, and finally in Kelowna after he
obtained the family farm. He died of a heart attack following an operation
in the Vernon Hospital.
To describe Billy as unique risks understatement. To describe Billy as
eccentric, although accurate, misses the mark. Put simply, there never will
be and there never was another like Billy Firman. For those who really
knew Billy, the grainy photo shown on this page will be meaningful. It tells
more about Billy than mere words can. His deep love for the beauty of the
natural world was, for him, both defining and profound. His capacity for
empathy and kindness towards living creatures, occasionally including
human beings, sustained his life. But if you had ever witnessed Billy walking
downtown through Vernon with his beloved one-legged chicken
Squeaky on a string leash, you would be seeing only part of the picture.
Billy was a highly intelligent and complex man. He did not just march
to the beat of his own drum; he was the whole orchestra. He was insightful
and opinionated, empathetic and infuriating, worldly and reclusive, excessive
and ascetic. But mostly he was just plain hilarious. He had self-deprecation
down to an art and took great advantage of his own self-described
Despite profuse protestations to the contrary, Bill loved being a barrister.
He was a student of the human condition which, as he would keenly