By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 0 Comments
A lifelong activist, she became the only Canadian to win the right to get a doctor’s help to die, after a legal battle in B.C.
Gloria Jean Taylor was born in Trail, B.C., on March 30, 1948, the first of four daughters (Shirley arrived next, followed by Betty, then Patty). Her father, Fred Fomenoff, was a construction worker and a bus driver; her mother, Anne, was the anchor of the family home in Castlegar, a West Kootenay town of 7,000. “Her daddy was a hunter and a fisherman, and he taught her how to track a deer and catch a fish,” says Anne. “She was tomboyish in a sense, and definitely an outdoor person.”
It was dad who taught young Gloria another invaluable lesson: how to stick up for herself. She was still in elementary school, teased and bullied by another student, when she came home in tears. “Her dad told her what to do,” Anne says, smiling at the memory. “She never came home crying again. She cleaned their clock good.”
Gloria held so many jobs, and advocated for so many different causes, that even she had trouble remembering each one. (An avid writer and poet, she often joked about how she was going to list them all someday.) She was a receptionist. A hairdresser. A letter sorter for Canada Post. A parole supervisor. “Any job she had wasn’t exciting enough or challenging enough,” her mother says. “She was definitely a free spirit.”
Gloria met Pat Taylor in the fall of 1971. Six weeks later, on Christmas Eve, they were married. “She was tender, loving and very compassionate,” says Jason, the eldest of her two sons. “I can’t tell you how many foster kids we took in over the years. She gave of herself more than anybody I’ve ever known.” Although Gloria and her husband eventually divorced, they remained dear friends and devoted parents.
Single again, Gloria applied for a motorcycle licence and purchased her first bike, a Yamaha. A year later, she bought her beloved Harley-Davidson Super Glide, custom-painted her favourite colour—purple—and adorned with unicorns. She logged thousands of kilometres gripping those handlebars, her shoulders covered in elaborate tattoos.
In her 50s, Gloria took over as property manager of a trailer park near Kelowna, where she owned a three-bedroom mobile home. (Her son Clinton lived nearby, with his daughter Gabrielle.) Around then, Gloria began complaining about cramping in her hands and feet; by 2006, the spasms had grown so severe she could barely use a key or hold a pen. “My mom had beautiful, beautiful handwriting,” Jason says. “One day, she told me she couldn’t hold up her pinky finger anymore. It would drag along the page.” In January 2010, a specialist in Vancouver confirmed the devastating news: Gloria was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The doctor told her she would be paralyzed in six months, and likely dead by Christmas.
Ever the fighter, Gloria beat the odds. Christmas came and went—and so did the next one. But the disease took its toll, ravaging her muscles and forcing her to quit her latest job at a group home for disabled adults. Some days, Gloria couldn’t pull down her own bedsheets or brush her own teeth.
In the summer of 2011, Gloria saw a news report about the B.C. Civil Liberties Association launching a court challenge against Canada’s assisted-dying laws. Gloria phoned the association, and by the time the case reached a courtroom later that year, she was the lead plaintiff. “I live in apprehension that my death will be slow, difficult, unpleasant, painful, undignified and inconsistent with the values and principles I have tried to live by,” she wrote in an affidavit. “I want the legal right to die peacefully, at the time of my own choosing, in the embrace of my family and friends.”
In June, Gloria won her battle. In a landmark ruling, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting physician-assisted suicide violated her Charter rights to life, liberty and equality. When her lawyer phoned to share the news, Gloria broke down in tears. It had nothing to do with whether she was going to go through with an assisted suicide,” her son says. “It was all about having the choice: if it got too bad, then she would have the ability to do something on her own terms.”
In the end, Gloria did not need to make that choice. Just before Thanksgiving, she was admitted to hospital with a severe infection from a perforated colon. She died Oct. 4, surrounded by family and friends. Gloria was 64.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
For years, the former soldier had struggled with PTSD. Finally, last year, he sought treatment. He was better than ever.
Gregory John Matters was born on April 12, 1972, in Prince George, B.C., and grew up on a 160-acre farm in nearby Pineview, where his parents, George and Lorraine, raised cattle and other animals. Greg and his older siblings, Trevor and Tracey, helped tend to pigs, chickens and goats.
The Matters children didn’t have many toys, and spent all their spare time outdoors. Greg was an accomplished tree climber, and would fish for trout with a homemade rod and worms from the garden. As they got older, Greg, a rugby player at Prince George Senior Secondary School, “had all the girls swooning,” Tracey says; but he was bashful and didn’t like attracting attention to himself.
After graduating in 1990, Greg travelled to Australia, where Tracey had joined the civil service. As he was cycling near Tracey’s neighbourhood in Canberra, a kangaroo jumped in front of him, causing him to flip over the bike’s handlebars and break his collarbone. Greg underwent surgery, but his left arm never completely recovered; he never regained a full range of motion.
He returned to Canada to work on the farm, and, at 20, he decided he wanted to become a Canadian Forces peacekeeper. He was a “valiant and proud Canadian” and “wanted to make a big impact on the world,” says Tracey. But the Forces turned him down because of his bad arm. Greg was disappointed, but didn’t give up. After another surgery and a year of physiotherapy, he reapplied, and in October 1994, he joined the 4th Air Defence Regiment at CFB Gagetown, in New Brunswick.
In 2001, Greg was deployed on a seven-month mission to Bosnia, where peacekeepers were upholding the peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Greg was part of a NATO-led mission in Velika Kladuša, near the Croatian border; there, he witnessed rapes and murders. When he returned to Canada, his family noticed he was increasingly angry and withdrawn, but he refused to discuss what he’d seen. Gone was the “happy-go-lucky guy I had grown up with,” Tracey says.
Greg struggled with depression, and was posted to Gagetown until 2009, when the Canadian Forces deemed him “unsuitable for further service.” He moved back to his parents’ farm in Prince George, and in 2011, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Who committed the genocide? It was your neighbours, the military, the people in power, the militia,” says Dr. Greg Passey, his psychiatrist at the British Columbia Operational Stress Injury Clinic. In addition to the atrocities Greg had witnessed, it emerged that he had been bullied and assaulted by fellow soldiers. Greg’s experience in Bosnia, says Passey, “cemented his fear of authority figures.”
But under Passey’s care, Greg thrived. Soon he became “an even better version of his old self,” says Tracey. He re-established friendships and spent time with his grandmother. When his mother was hospitalized with pneumonia, Greg stayed by her bedside through the night and bought chocolates for her nurses. Last Christmas, Greg went all out, covering the Matters farmhouse with tinsel and decorations. The family built an eight-foot snowman. Greg added the finishing touch—his own scarf. “Greg would have normally sat inside and smiled from the inside of the house,” says Tracey. But this time, “he was right out there with us.”
In September, Greg enrolled at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, and studied psychology. “He wanted to become a psychologist or counsellor to help other veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Tracey says. He set up a study in a cabin on his grandparents’ property, a quiet place where he completed his coursework.
He was planning to visit Tracey in Australia over Christmas, and had started buying gifts in July—he was close to his nephew and nieces. He told his sister he was hoping to get married and settle down. He’d even agreed to let Tracey give him a makeover and a new haircut. Finally, he seemed to have moved past the trauma that had haunted him since Bosnia.
On Sept. 9, the RCMP was dispatched to the Matters farm after an incident between Greg and his brother, Trevor. Greg, who was unarmed, was refusing to come out of the cabin. On Sept. 10, after a 30-hour stakeout, Greg was fatally shot by police. He was 40 years old. His death is under investigation by B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office.
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
He was a dedicated cyclist and doting father. A warrant officer, he served in Bosnia, Kosovo and did three tours in Afghanistan.
Kevin Roderick Malott was born in Gimli, Man., on Oct. 24, 1965, the second of two children born to Roderick, an air traffic controller in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and Anne, a homemaker who cared for Kevin and his older sister Kim.
Roderick’s military career kept the family on the move: from the Canadian Forces Base Lahr, in what was then West Germany, to Cold Lake, Alta., then on to North Bay, Ont. When Kevin was in Grade 12, the family moved to CFB Trenton. Kevin, who was just two credits shy of his high school diploma, left North Bay’s Widdifield Secondary School to begin a mechanic’s apprenticeship in Trenton, Ont. Although he loved working on cars and motorcycles, he hated busting his knuckles, and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. In 1985, Kevin enlisted in the Canadian Forces; two years later he was posted to Lahr with the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s).
It was there that “Kevin started to come into his own as a soldier,” says his friend, Master Warrant Officer Gerry Olsen, who competed with Kevin in military fitness competitions. Kevin, who played rugby and hockey, was a “machine,” says Gerry: six foot four, and fit as a horse.
By Susan Mohammad - Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 10:00 PM - 0 Comments
After he bought his first motorcycle, riding became his passion. He spent all of his free time on his bike.
Benjamin John Eldridge Collins was born at the Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe-Claire, Que., on Sept. 28, 1989. His father, Ken, who worked for Air Canada as an IT specialist, and his mother, Kelley Huskins, then a homemaker, had broken up, but they were reunited by Ben’s birth and remained together for one more year.
Kelley called Ben her “miracle baby.” A year before his birth, doctors had told her she would never be able to have children, the result of a terrible accident that nearly took her life. Kelley had been thrown from a motorcycle and pinned beneath its back tire; her best friend, who’d been driving the bike, was killed in the crash.
“From day one he was a happy-go-lucky kid,” she says. His uncle Rick called him the “drool machine,” because he never stopped smiling.
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 3:55 PM - 0 Comments
A natural musician and a wise soul, even as a boy, for much of his life he’d drifted. then he found photography.
John Robert Matthew MacIntyre, the son of Ingrid, a homemaker, and Robert, an RCMP officer, was born in Winnipeg on Dec. 18, 1984. Robert’s career took the close-knit family across Canada, from Ontario to Alberta, Nova Scotia, then finally back to Manitoba. Matt, as he was known, was wise beyond his years; his sister Tracey jokingly called him her “big” brother, though she was eight years his senior. “He always had really good advice,” she says. “He was always calm.”
Matt’s parents encouraged his artistic interests, but were caught off-guard by how quickly their son mastered the guitar and saxophone without any formal instruction. “I’ve been playing guitar for 40 years,” Robert says. “In four years, he left me in the dust.” Matt’s musical skills could reduce his dad to tears. “I got a promotion one time, and when I came home he played Hail to the Chief on his saxophone,” one of many songs Matt learned by ear, Robert recalls.
When Matt was 14, the MacIntyres, after years on the move, settled for good in Stonewall, a small town north of Winnipeg. There, Matt met Ben Shedden, and formed a lifelong bond over marathon video-game sessions in Matt’s room. Later, they would buy slushies and cruise around town in Ben’s beefy muscle car, a 1970 Pontiac they called “the Chief,” listening to tunes and talking about life.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 10:00 PM - 0 Comments
A photographer since boyhood, he’d lived all over Canada. But his heart remained in eastern Canada, with its majestic shores.
Susumu Yoda was born near Tokyo on Nov. 26, 1947, two years after U.S. atomic bombs annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He had two siblings—a sister and a brother—and like millions of other children, they grew up in a country shattered by the Second World War. Starvation was rampant.
Yoda was four years old when Allied forces ended their occupation of Japan, ushering in a new era of democracy and economic reform. His dad, lucky enough to find work, bought Yoda a gift he never forgot: a new camera. (The first Polaroid was introduced in 1947, the year he was born.) Yoda carried that camera everywhere, capturing countless photos of the world around him.
As a young man, Yoda shuffled between jobs, mostly in the construction industry. He also trained as a chef, learning the art of fine Japanese cuisine. But the work hours in his home country were gruelling—he later told one friend, “They don’t give you any time to yourself.” He longed for something more satisfying. After his father died of cancer, Yoda made up his mind and packed his bags. He arrived in Nova Scotia in 1978.
By Andrew Stobo Sniderman - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:00 AM - 0 Comments
At six foot one, he was big; his customers were bigger. In his commitment to the perfect fit, retirement was never an option.
Ljubisav “Gilbert” Lazich was born on April 9, 1928, in the village of Slobostina in the former Yugoslavia; he was only six months old when his father Teso sailed to Canada looking for work and landed in the Great Depression. Gilbert’s three older brothers died of typhoid, and he was raised by his epileptic mother Stana. During the Second World War, Germans razed the family home, but Gilbert stayed in the village until his mother died when he was 17. Gilbert, tall, handsome and poor, set off to Belgrade to learn a trade. He became a tailor even though his fellow apprentices teased him for his big hands.
Two years later, Gilbert returned to his village in an impeccable grey pinstripe suit for a local dance, where he met a 15-year-old beauty in a blue dress. Her name was Stella, and she had survived Hitler’s army by hiding for weeks in a hole covered with leaves and dirt. Gilbert asked her to dance the polka, while a guitar, bass and accordion carried the beat. After Gilbert returned to Belgrade, he wrote her a letter, “a little bit of a love story, nothing much I believed,” Stella says. She didn’t bother replying. But the young suitor returned in a few months bearing a bottle of plum brandy and a marriage proposal. He told her, “We’re orphans, we’re going to make it in this world. We have to make it.” He wanted his young wife to own a suit, so he chopped up his own and remade it to fit her.
Gilbert’s father, still in Canada, wrote his son and said he could hire someone to smuggle the couple out of the postwar gloom of Yugoslavia. So they snuck across the closed border, through bushes, down a steep hill, over a running creek. From Austria they flew to Toronto—they called it “America”—and all they knew was that everyone there was rich.
By Scaachi Koul - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 10:32 AM - 0 Comments
From the day he bought his first bike, at 18, he was devoted to riding. A man surrounded by friends, he loved riding alone.
Michael Richard Roberge was born in Winnipeg on Dec. 12, 1969, to Doreen Gowler and John Roberge. John and Doreen split up when Michael was five, and Doreen, a typesetter with the Winnipeg Free Press, raised Michael and his younger brother, Gordon. Michael was a talkative boy, always surrounded by a large group of friends in and out of his childhood home in the neighbourhood of Crescentwood. “He could go up to anyone to shake their hand,” Doreen says. He also loved riding his bike, the beginning of a lifelong passion.
The Roberge brothers were close with Doreen’s parents, Gordon and Beryl McLure, and often spent the night at their grandparents’ home. The McLures’ house was on a wide lot, and Gordon would take the boys on his riding lawnmower, a thrill when they were young. In the summers, they’d go to their grandparents’ cottage in Grand Beach for two weeks. Visits to Lanky’s, a food stand in the area, became a tradition: even as an adult, Michael made yearly visits for the two-foot-long hot dogs.
As a boy, Michael didn’t like school very much. “He never brought homework home,” Doreen says. What he did like was working: at 13, he went to all the fast-food restaurants in search of a job. By 14, he had started working at Chicken Delight. “He was never lazy,” Doreen says. “He wanted to earn his own money.”
By Mika Rekai - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 11:36 AM - 0 Comments
She loved the outdoors, even taking her boys skiing as babies. At 50, she got on a bike for the first time and found a new love.
Elizabeth Ann Sovis was born in Toronto on Feb. 25, 1949, to Stephen and Judith Sovis. Her sister, Millie, who was almost 16 at the time, and had been longing for a sibling all her life, hurled her schoolbooks in the air and leapt up in celebration upon learning she had a sister. “She was such a charmer right from birth,” Millie says. “People were drawn to her like a magnet.”
Stephen and Judith had immigrated from Slovakia, and raised the girls in Toronto, where Stephen became a contractor and Judith worked as a seamstress. Judith and Millie both loved to sew for baby Elizabeth, and it was common to see eight or nine tiny dresses hanging to dry outside the house. When she was older, Elizabeth would use these same clotheslines as backdrops when she and her friends performed backyard plays. Elizabeth summered at the family cottage on Lake Simcoe, where she fell in love with hiking and gardening. One year, her father built her a wooden rowboat; she loved taking her mother out on the lake to fish.
At North York’s Willowdale Middle School, Elizabeth took a handful of classes with a shy, unassuming boy named Edmund Auger. They rarely spoke, but became good friends when they moved on to Northview Secondary School together. When hiking with a big group of friends they would often pair off to talk about books and ideas. At 17, they realized they were a couple. But, a few months later, when Edmund was offered a scholarship to Wilfrid Laurier University, they went their separate ways.
By Aaron Hutchins - Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 3:35 PM - 0 Comments
He was ‘just one of those guys looking for adventure,’ and a best friend to everyone—especially his son
William Bradley Kuhl was born on July 12, 1967, in Lethbridge, Alta. His parents called him their “centennial project.” He came 16 years after his brother George and 17 years after his sister Cindy. He grew up in a small, white bungalow close to Highway 4 in Milk River. A precocious child with a love of nature, Brad would spend time outside staring at insects and carting around garter snakes.
His parents, Ken and Lee, separated when Brad was 10, and he moved to Lethbridge with his mom. Sometimes she would call him “Willy B. Kuhl”—it drove him nuts. Brad loved the outdoors. “He was just one of those guys looking for adventure,” says Rob St. Onge, a close friend. At 14, the two would get dropped off with a canoe and camp gear in Fort MacLeod, 50 km west of Lethbridge, and paddle home along the Oldman River.
Brad, who had early dreams of becoming a pilot, collected model airplanes that friends weren’t allowed to touch. But he also loved cars and trucks. Growing up, he would sit on the side of the road getting semi-trailer trucks to honk. Brad got his first real car in high school: a ’74 saddle bronze Super Beetle. He quickly upgraded to a plum-purple Firebird dubbed the “Firechicken.” “He was kind of hell on wheels in that for a while,” says George. The cars went well with his ’80s rocker mullet.
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 10:20 PM - 0 Comments
As a 12-year-old, he was diagnosed with a deadly disease. As a teenager, he discovered his true passion: cooking.
Jacob Moxie Whitney was a Mother’s Day baby, born May 10, 1992, in Brockville, Ont. For his parents, Monica Mroz and Randall Whitney, Jacob was the second of four children (after Alexander, but before Courtland and Stuart). He was, without question, the most rambunctious. “I don’t know if there is a better way to put it: Jacob was a challenge,” his mom says, smiling at the description. “He was on the go from the moment he was born.”
He learned to ride a bike when he was barely three—skipping training wheels altogether. When he was a little older, Jacob liked to climb out the attic window and walk along the roof. Or leap off the shed. “He was well known for trying out daredevil things, like riding his bike off the end of a picnic table,” says his uncle, Paul Whitney. “He was the kid where we all said: ‘Just keep an eye on him.’ ”
Jacob was 12, with dreams of becoming a police officer, when a throbbing pain attacked his right ankle. At first, it appeared to be a typical sprain—the result of yet another dive off the shed. But something was clearly wrong; his ankle was so unbearably cold that he used a hair dryer to try to warm it up. When his nose started squirting blood, Jacob was rushed to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in Ottawa. (Before losing consciousness, he made sure to ask the medics to turn on the siren.)
By Andrew Stobo Sniderman - Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
A caregiver who worked with troubled teens, she was known for her deft touch in defusing tense situations
Dianne McClements was born on Feb. 23, 1951, and grew up in Sedgewick, Alta., in a modest, three-bedroom house painted white and peach-pink. She was the third child of six born to Red and Margaret Culbert, and was quickly anointed family princess. Dianne didn’t pitch in at her father’s radiator shop but did help her mother on Saturdays to wax and buff the floors. After dinner, the Culbert brood preferred hide-and-seek to the meagre offerings of a single channel on a black-and-white television. They were joined by a boy named Greg Chant who lived down the back alley. He’d tease Dianne about her mop of curly blond hair and pelt her with lumps of dirt. Before he left town after finishing Grade 2, Greg biked over to the Culbert house to say goodbye to his good friend, Dianne’s brother.
After high school, Dianne moved to Edmonton, where she married Doug McClements and had two children, Trudy and Jeff. She worked many jobs but most enjoyed her time as a teacher’s assistant working with a handicapped child. For six years, she studied part-time at a community college to earn a diploma in early childhood development. After separating from her husband, she launched into a career as a support worker for disabled and disadvantaged youth.
What began as a job became Dianne’s passion. She worked full-time in a group home for troubled teens, plus an extra 20 to 30 hours a week in the homes of families with children who had special needs. Cody Glasgow was one such child; he had cerebral palsy, which left him unable to walk. Dianne wasn’t satisfied just with meeting his needs; she wanted him to experience the life of any other boy. One day, she sat him in a red tricycle and Velcroed his feet to the pedals. Off they went, with Dianne pushing from behind. A ride on a horse followed. Another time, Dianne accompanied Cody’s family on vacation, and drove them to British Columbia in her motorhome. One morning, shortly after 7 a.m., she spontaneously decided to roast marshmallows at a campsite—every kid, she figured, deserves a roasted marshmallow for breakfast at least once.
By Andrew Stobo Sniderman - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 10:56 AM - 0 Comments
Always ready with a hearty laugh, she loved to volunteer. After a rescue at sea by the coast guard, she was quick to sign up
Beatrice Sorensen was born on Nov. 21, 1960, in Ashcroft, B.C., the nearest place to home with a hospital. She was the youngest of seven sisters, which brought her father Raymond Schultz, a Saskatchewan farm boy turned B.C. logger, as close as he would come to his dream of fielding a full baseball team of girls. They grew up in Clinton, a village with wooden boardwalks and a highway main street where the population never quite hit four digits. Every Sunday their mother Ivy, born on an Ojibwa reserve in Ontario, insisted that washed clothes get fresh air, even in the winter. The troupe of daughters dutifully retrieved laundry hanging frozen stiff. Little Beatrice did what she could, but her tiny hands usually got too cold. She preferred to slide down a nearby hill on a scrap of cardboard or, in the arid summers, explore the hillsides until night fell.
She was a quiet, tentative girl who tiptoed around the limelight. Friends struggled to get her in photographs. Her first boyfriend managed to get her into a canoe, a red-orange slice of fibreglass they would strap to the top of his yellow Ford Pinto. She later moved to Kamloops for college and became an accountant. She married young, divorced, then married Randy Sorensen, with whom she had two children, Sara and Zachary. After a time in Vancouver, they settled in Sechelt, a lush earthy district of a few thousand on the coast, about 30 minutes from the city by ferry.
Something changed with Beatrice around the time her father died in 2007 and after she divorced Sorensen. She volunteered more and blossomed at her job in social services. She eased herself from the margins, outside her comfort zone. “She found her calling, the giving of herself,” says her sister Geraldine. And she got a motorcycle, a green Harley-Davidson. She wore black leather boots, black leather pants, black leather everything. She faced her licence exam with trepidation, on a day pouring heavy West Coast rain. When her boyfriend Terry Friberg asked if she was sure she wanted to take the test that day, Beatrice assured him she did. Two hours later, she announced her return with a rumble. Terry opened the garage. She sat silently on her steaming hog in the driveway, soaked and dripping, beaming her biggest smile.
By Gustavo Vieira - Monday, June 25, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
He was mad for his mountain bike, but he’d just met a girl. He wanted to introduce her to the sport he loved.
Joël André Gauthier was born in Rockland, Ont., on June 15, 1993, the first of two children to Lynne, a homemaker, and Pierre, an IT salesman; his sister Michèle followed two years later. Growing up, Joël was a meticulous child who hated getting his hands dirty. He kept his toy cars in a neatly arranged display in his bedroom. “Once I moved one of his cars about half an inch to tease him. He knew right away someone had been there,” says his uncle Mario Beauchamp. For the rest of his life, Joël would always keep his room and its contents—CDs, bike tools, clothes—in perfect order. “His room was immaculate,” says his aunt Sylvie Bowman.
At Sainte-Félicité elementary school in nearby Clarence Creek, Joël had a rough start with his classmate, Mathieu Halloran. “We bullied each other a bit, had a couple of fights,” says Mathieu, but their parents intervened, and the two boys made up, laying the foundation for what became a lifelong friendship. Soon Joël and Mathieu were riding around the neighbourhood together on bikes, pulling tricks and testing their skills on the trails in the woods behind their houses. Using saws and axes they built jumps and ramps from scrap wood. “We spent more time building than riding,” says Mathieu. At 14, Joël, to his father’s dismay, pulled apart a brand-new $500 bike he’d received for his birthday—“down to every nut and bolt,” according to Pierre. “He said he could rebuild it,” Pierre adds, “and, sure enough, he did.”
By the time Joël graduated from Rockland’s L’Escale high school, he was seriously into downhill mountain biking, hitting the trails whenever possible. Every other weekend, Joël and his buddies would drive three hours to Bromont or Chelsea, in Quebec, where they’d race down the slopes, dodging rocks and tree roots, careful not to fly over their handlebars as they navigated sharp turns and ramps as high as 12 m.
By Gustavo Vieira - Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 11:00 PM - 0 Comments
His daily text messages and photos to family spread his good cheer. But his real passion was running the streets of Halifax.
John Stephen Dunn was born in Halifax on April 5, 1954, the first of five children of Muriel, an administrative assistant, and Ron, a Korean War veteran and navy officer. Ron and Muriel, who started calling their youngest Steve when he was a baby, had a home where the whole family ate dinner together every night. The kids shared chores, such as doing the dishes. When it was time to play, Steve was always on the move. “He must have thought he was a cowboy or something then,” says his sister Linda, recalling a time when Steve used to run around the house chasing his siblings with a toy lasso.
Steve was a teenager when the navy relocated his dad to Saint-Bruno, Que. When he wasn’t playing Beatles songs on his guitar in his bedroom, Steve learned French and worked first as a newspaper carrier, then as a lifeguard, and finally as a caddy in a golf club during the summer with his pal Glenn Pate. “We saw Black Sabbath for $2,” recalls Glenn, who fondly remembers hanging out with Steve, eating fries dripping with vinegar, and listening to Steppenwolf on the jukebox in the early ’70s.
When the family returned to Halifax a few years later, Steve graduated from St. Patrick’s High School and went straight to the Nova Scotia Technical College, where he graduated in 1978 from chemical engineering. That same year, he got a job as an engineer with Air Liquide in Mount Pearl, Nfld.
By Susan Mohammad - Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 9:00 PM - 0 Comments
She insisted on being called ‘vie’ because it means ‘life’ in French. She devoted her boundless energy to cycling and native youth.
Violet Marion Nelson was born in Swan River, Man., on Dec. 22, 1976, the second of four children to Violet, a homemaker, and Glen, who drove a taxi. The children, including her brothers Eric and Will, and sister Sindy, grew up in Winnipeg, where Violet, who had white-blond locks, loved playing cowboys with her brothers as much as she did dressing Sindy up like a doll. She was equal parts nurturer and energetic tomboy.
Violet insisted everyone call her “Vie,” largely because it means “life” in French. She was generous to a fault, even as a child; her mother scolded her more than once for giving away her toys to less fortunate neighbourhood kids. “I’d give her heck, and ask why she did that,” says Violet. “She’d just look at me—‘They didn’t have any toys,’ she’d say.”
As a student at Faraday School, Vie was a whiz with numbers and an exceptional athlete, bringing home trophies for just about every sport she tried. In Grade 3, she took a liking to cycling after she and Eric took a safe biking course. Sitting still in class, however, was difficult for Vie, who was diagnosed with dyslexia. To help burn up some of her extra energy, her teachers pushed her toward extracurricular activities. At nine, Vie signed up for the Girl Guides of Canada, and by 11, she was volunteering at the YMCA, teaching kids to swim. Despite her success outside the classroom, school remained a challenge. In high school, Vie frequently skipped class, and in Grade 10, dropped out altogether. At 17, she toured Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario as a volunteer with Katimavik, the Canadian organization that sends youth to work in community projects.
By Gustavo Vieira - Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 12:23 PM - 0 Comments
He was a born fisherman and a relentless Mr. Fix-it; on board the shrimp trawler, he took care of everything
Harris Gange was born on Jan. 15, 1955, in Anchor Point, a fishing village of fewer than 400 people on the windswept northwest coast of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula. Harris was the youngest of eight children of Gladys, a homemaker, and her husband, Samuel, a fisherman. Growing up in a fishing family, the Gange children were taught early on to work the twines and knits of the family’s cod traps, but Harris was the kind of kid who also liked to fiddle with motors and other equipment. As young as 10, he took apart a transistor radio “just to see how it worked,” says his brother Wallace.
At Canon Richards High School, in nearby Flowers Cove, Harris used to sit quietly in the back row of the classroom with his buddies from Anchor Point, Jacob and Ernest. Har, as he came to be called, was such a shy boy that he was too ashamed to put his hand up in class. By the time he finished high school in the early ’70s, Harris was a full-time fisherman living off the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s abundant cod fisheries.
It was around this time that Harris started dating a girl named Jessie from a nearby community. After three years of dating, Jessie got pregnant. She was just 17. “They were all supportive. They vouched for us,” says Jessie of her family, with whom she kept living even after their daughter Nina was born.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 9:29 AM - 0 Comments
A dedicated farmer and enthusiastic pilot, he never hesitated to do a favour, or offer a flight to spare a neighbour a long drive
Dennis Hartley Loree was born in Nanton, Alta., on Feb. 9, 1953. “Denny,” as he was known, was the eldest child of Lloyd and Donna Loree, lifelong grain farmers and cattle ranchers.
From an early age Denny became a role model for his two brothers and two sisters. He was a hard worker, and a calm, responsible boy. The farm was his life. Riding the horses, seeding the ground, driving the trucks—he loved it all. By the time he was 11, he’d decided to buy his parents’ farm when they retired.
A tall and handsome teenager, Denny had a chiselled face and a fit, rope-thin body shaped by years of farm work and sports. He played lacrosse and rode bulls, though his rodeo career was short-lived: he couldn’t stand spurring the bulls, using his boots’ blunt, five-point steel spurs to help him hang on to the twisting, bucking animals. After high school, Denny got a diploma in agricultural production, bringing him one step closer to his dream of running the family farm.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
He loved the outdoors, and was determined to become a police officer. He understood the trauma crime caused its victims.
Douglas William James Marshall was born at Toronto Western Hospital on July 16, 1966. He was the third of three children born to Sandra, a homemaker, and Don, who ran Marshall’s Refrigeration, an air conditioning business. Doug, his sister, Colleen, and brother, Steve, grew up in Scarborough, Ont., on a tree-lined street where the road hockey game never seemed to end.
Doug was a friendly and inquisitive kid who loved exploring outside. He would tromp through the wildernesss on the family’s frequent camping trips, and wander the woods when visiting his grandparents in Parry Sound. He was known for his thick, velvety blond hair. “Everybody always wanted to touch his head,” says Sandra.
At 11, Doug met Mark Pelzl, and started helping him with his paper route. “We were like brothers,” Mark says. They remained tight through their teens, along with a growing circle of friends brought together by their love of nature. “Any long weekend, we were rock climbing or going up to Algonquin Park,” says Mark.
By Gabriela Perdomo - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 9:40 PM - 0 Comments
His tough exterior hid a loving, selfless heart. When someone was in need, he never hesitated to help.
Aurel Robert Dupuis was born on Sept. 24, 1943, in Timmins, Ont. His father, Jean-Alfred, was a Franco-Ontarian bush contractor who hired workers to haul pulp wood to local paper mills. His mother, Renade, ran their large household. Aurel was one of seven children.
Aurel grew up near Barber’s Bay, in northeastern Ontario, surrounded by green woods and frozen lakes. His childhood was marked by hard work. When Aurel wasn’t at school, he was loading pulp trucks with his dad. As the oldest boy, Aurel felt he had to work hardest, to set an example. He took his role seriously and after Grade 7, announced he preferred the bush life to the classroom and quit school.
So began Aurel’s working life, a boy among gruff, older men. Though he was a shy teenager, he came to love singing les chansons à répondre (French folk songs) and played the accordion and the spoons. He loved the woods, but at 17, he and his brother Guy, who was one year younger, decided to see the world beyond Barber’s Bay, and travelled 700 km south to Toronto, their first visit to a big city. Together, they found work at Bathurst Containers, a packing company, but Guy liked the city a lot more than his big brother. Barely a year later, Aurel bought a truck and drove right back to Barber’s Bay.
By Tamsin McMahon - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 10:21 AM - 0 Comments
He started his own logging company, survived numerous accidents and watched his mill burn to the ground
Kenneth Victor Williams was born on June 21, 1929, in Victoria, the eldest of six children. His father, Victor, worked in logging and on the railway. Mother Lillian was a teacher. As a child, Ken was intensely hyperactive. “He was probably one of the original ADHD children, he just went so much,” says his daughter, Sandra Quesnel. Big for his age, with enormous hands and a shock of dark wavy hair, Ken quickly put his energy into earning money clearing brush or picking potatoes for neighbours. He had made enough by the time he was 12 to buy his own clothes and schoolbooks and bought his ﬁrst car, a Ford Model T, when he was just 14.
While he was still in high school he met Josie Williams, three years younger, whose family had moved to Duncan from the Okanagan. Marriage, in 1949, seemed natural since, by coincidence, the two already shared a last name. He photographed Josie perched on a tree stump, a picture that long graced the family photo album. It was only years later that Josie discovered she was the last in the line of four girls Ken had photographed atop a stump.
They had three children: Sandra, the eldest, and two boys, Victor and Jim. Family activities often revolved around teaching the children the value of a hard day’s work. Ken had them pull spikes from an old railway used as a logging road, for a penny a spike. When Sandra was 12, Ken enlisted her to help move his logging equipment up a hill. Behind the wheel of a pickup, Josie following in a dump truck and Ken towing a bulldozer, Sandra missed a gear and stalled, sending the procession to a halt. Ken “came stomping up the road and I was ready to run,” Sandra recalls.
By Michael Friscolanti - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
He pursued acting rather than join the family business, but was never comfortable with his fame as the 18th-century vampire Barnabas Collins
John Herbert Frid was born on Dec. 2, 1924, in Hamilton, Ont., the youngest son of Herbert Percival Frid, a wealthy construction executive, and his wife, Isabella Flora Frid (née McGregor). His father was a pillar in the community—hospital builder, member of McMaster University’s board of governors, citizen of the year—but John had little interest in joining the family business. “His first love was theatre,” said his cousin, Barbara Wilson. “He had such a beautiful voice.” In high school, John’s friends called him “Mort” because he looked so much like Edgar Bergen’s dummy, Mortimer Snerd.
After a stint with the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, John enrolled at McMaster, immersing himself in the drama society. With his parents’ blessing (and their generous financial backing), he continued his theatrical training, first at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and then at the Yale School of Drama, where he earned a master’s in directing. Over the next decade, while living in New York, John made his Broadway debut and shared scenes with Katharine Hepburn. By then, he had changed his first name to Jonathan.
In 1967, Jonathan received the phone call that would change his life—transforming a 42-year-old anonymous actor into a national heartthrob. On the other end of the line was his agent, informing him that he had won a bit role on a floundering, low-budget ABC soap opera called Dark Shadows. He had been cast as Barnabas Collins, an 18th-century vampire resurrected into a 20th-century world. It was supposed to be a short-term character; according to the original script, Barnabas was destined to take a wooden stake to the heart within a few weeks. But Jonathan’s performance was so powerful—his portrayal of a reluctantly fanged, guilt-ridden bloodsucker such a hit with audiences—that he literally saved the show from its own impending death.
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 5:38 AM - 0 Comments
A rebel when she was young, she found meaning and a way of life while caring for horses
Shauna Sarah Ferguson was born at Yellowknife’s only hospital on May 26, 1953. Her father, Cliff Van Oostdam, a mining engineer, had moved there for work, with his wife, Harriet. Shauna was their third child, born after Joanna and Jay, but it wasn’t long before they moved south to Regina. There, life changed dramatically.
When Shauna was a toddler, Cliff disappeared and started a new family in Mexico, leaving them on the edge of town, barely a block from the sprawling prairie. “We didn’t know what we were missing,” says Jay, Shauna’s older brother. “My dad just wasn’t there.”
With their dad gone, and their mom working full time as a SaskTel secretary, Shauna was free to indulge her freewheeling nature. “We could go wherever we wanted,” says Jay. Shauna, who kept her red hair cropped short, would take long, adventurous bike rides, leading neighbourhood kids over streams and rolling hills far from home, convincing them to spend an extra hour tromping through the woods. More than once, in the middle of the night, Shauna and her teddy bear stole away onto the moonlit fields nearby, only to be brought home by a neighbourly farmer. “She’d push the envelope as far as she could,” laughs Jay.
By Nicholas Köhler - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 11:59 AM - 0 Comments
She was an even-keeled, relaxed ‘country girl’ who knew her mind, loved her sons and rarely got a night out
Erin Katherine Vance was born on Sept. 19, 1986, in Ottawa, but lived most of her life just west of there, in the Ottawa Valley farming village of Dunrobin. There, and along the green corridor of the Ottawa River—Ontario south of it, the silver steeples of Quebec just north—the Vances were long known as important farmers and cattlemen. Erin and her older brother Alex grew up amid hay, horses, and the rich, twangy Irish-, Scottish- and French-inflected English of the valley. Her father, Don Vance, runs a garage; her mother Janet does finance work for the city of Ottawa. Erin, with her dark curly hair and round face, was, as a girl, “always ebullient, always a happy spirit,” says her maternal aunt Wendy Doyle. Yet she loved order, finding satisfaction in rules and routine. “She was an organized girl,” says Janet. “She’d take all the clothes from the linen closet, and all the towels, and fold them up and put them back again.”
It was Doyle, an accomplished rider, who introduced her to horses. “From the beginning she just wanted to give them lots of apples and carrots,” she says. “Every time I’d ask would she like to go riding, she’d just beam, ‘Oh yes.’ ” She began lessons early, at eight. “I had a hard time finding someone who’d take her,” Janet says. “But she started then and never stopped.” She was equally diligent at St. Isidore Catholic School—“actually a very good student until Grade 9, when she discovered boys,” Janet says. And she was a ferocious worker, mucking out stables at 14 and becoming a floorwalker at the Zellers in Hazeldean Mall—“like an undercover security guard,” Doyle says. Now and then she’d spot a shoplifter. “She’d chase them out,” says Janet. “It was very exciting for her.” These thrills led Erin to consider a career in policing. “It was a good path for her,” Doyle says. “She didn’t like it when people didn’t follow the rules.”
Erin was in the policing program at Algonquin College when she learned she was pregnant with twins. She was 19. If she was otherwise even-keeled, relaxed—“a country girl,” says her uncle Dale Vance—here she knew her mind; her family had no choice but to adjust. She would be a single mom. “She was an independent girl,” says Dale. “And she was very private in her private life. We were apprehensive, but she stood her ground with us. Like, this was the way it was going to be—‘I am going to raise these children.’ ” Liam and Caleb, two handsome, identical boys, arrived on Aug. 23, 2006. “She didn’t pass it off,” says Dale. “She stood up, and became this awesome mother.”
By Gustavo Vieira - Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
She found love, and a new passion: scuba diving
Ronda May Cross was born in Fort Nelson, B.C., on April 30, 1970, the first child of Dora, a homemaker, and Ernie Kryzanowski, a log-loading contractor in northern B.C.’s then-thriving lumber industry. Ernie’s line of work meant Ronda and her two younger brothers, Cory and Jeff, spent their childhoods criss-crossing the province with their parents: from Quesnel to Houston, Prince George, Burns Lake and beyond.
In Fraser Lake, B.C., Ronda started school and dreamed of one day becoming a flight attendant so that she could travel the world. The constant moving “didn’t bother her at all,” says Ernie. “She could make friends with anybody.” She once stepped up on a milk crate to break into the family’s deep freezer and distributed ice cream bars to all her friends, including a dog. “She was so kind-hearted, she’d always put other people first,” says Ernie. Once, in an orchard in Kelowna, B.C., in yet another new town, Ronda’s brother Jeff found a muddy puddle teeming with tadpoles; much to his dismay, they eventually grew into frogs and disappeared. Ronda, then 12, couldn’t stand to see her brother upset, so she dug up some mud from the puddle and used it to make little clay frogs she hand painted with Jeff. “I was so amazed that she made art out of it, I totally forgot how sad I was that my frogs went away,” says Jeff.
When the family moved to Hazelton, B.C., where Ronda started high school, her athletic side emerged. She joined the school’s track and field team, a figure skating club and a softball team, the Rochettes, named for Hazelton’s Roche de Boule mountain range.