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A look at the lives lost in the April 18-19 Nova Scotia mass shooting

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — The victims in one of Canada's worst mass killings include an RCMP officer, a teacher, two nurses, neighbours of the shooter and two correctional officers killed in their home.

Here is a look at the 22 lives lost:

Elizabeth Joanne Thomas and John Zahl

Thomas and Zahl have been missing since their Portapique, N.S., home burned down on Saturday, and their son Justin wrote on Facebook Wednesday night that he has been told it could be three weeks before formal identification is made of bodies found inside the home.

"Of course we all know the answer to that question," he wrote. 

Thomas, a woman in her late 50s known as Joanne to friends and family, hailed from Winnipeg and fell in love with Nova Scotia on a trip during her teenage years, Justin Zahl said.

After raising two sons in Albuquerque, N.M., Thomas and her husband retired to their dream home in Portapique about three years ago.

John Zahl, in his late 60s, was originally from Minnesota. The pair met in North Dakota and later moved to Albuquerque. Justin Zahl said his father worked for FedEx before retiring and later worked as an educational assistant with special needs students.

Thomas worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield in the United States and after moving to Nova Scotia, she threw herself into volunteering with her local church. She had worked on charity projects providing food and laundry service for the homeless, her son said, describing her as a "living, walking angel."


Peter and Joy Bond

Multiple social media accounts, including by relatives and a New Brunswick church, shared sadness at the news that the Bonds, a couple who "were loved by their family, friends and community," are among the dead.

The couple lived in Portapique, N.S., and had two sons, according to a fundraising page set up for their family. Bradley Monks wrote on April 20 that he had received word that the attacks were on his sister's street, and the couple had not been heard from.

"God please let them be OK," Monks wrote. Later in the week he shared photos in their memory.

On April 20, granddaughter Tiffany wrote, "no words can describe how I feel at the moment," and shared a photo of Joy and Peter. "I have lots of memories to hold onto. I know you both will be looking over us and your family," she wrote.


Lillian Hyslop

Hyslop, 65, was killed while out for a morning stroll in Wentworth Valley, N.S. on the morning of April 19, says neighbour and fellow walker Heather Matthews.

A death notice in the Halifax Chronicle Herald described her as "a true adventurer" who "lived, worked, and explored Canada from sea to sea to shining sea."

"She was courageous, generous, determined, quick-witted and gave the best hugs," the obituary from her family read, using her name Margaret Lillian Campbell.

Hyslop had one child and retired with her husband Michael Hyslop to Nova Scotia from Whitehorse in 2014, where she embraced her new home, garden and neighbours "with her usual vitality." The couple took regular day trips to beaches and spent the past winter in Florida.

"Lillian lived her life with grace and kindness," the notice read.

Matthews says Hyslop could often be spotted striding through the neighbourhood on one of her frequent walks.

She was also known for her "community spirit," and could be counted on to contribute to local suppers and activities, says Matthews.


Dawn Madsen and Frank Gulenchyn

The couple lived in the Durham region in southern Ontario before moving to Nova Scotia, where they were among the victims of this weekend's violence, a municipal official said.

John Henry, regional chair and chief executive officer of the Regional Municipality of Durham, extended his condolences to the couple's family in a statement Monday.

Madsen worked at the Hillsdale Terraces long-term care home in Oshawa for decades before retiring in 2019, Henry said.

Online videos show a procession of emergency vehicles driving by an Oshawa home to pay their respects to Madsen's sons Jon and Ryan Farrington.


Joey Webber

Webber had gone on a family errand toward the Shubenacadie, N.S., area, about 50 kilometres northwest of Halifax, when he was killed.

Coun. Steve Streatch, who lives four houses away from Webber in the rural community of Antrim, said he was "a fine young man who lived in the community of the Musquodoboit Valley, and it's a tragic loss."

Streatch said Webber worked in the woods, often using traditional methods, and is survived by young daughters.

"He had a good outlook. He always had a big smile, and a lot of times that's hard to find in people. Often in the morning I would drive by to council and I'd see him at the bus stop with his children," Streatch said.

"He always waved and had a big smile on this face."


Tom Bagley

Bagley died while "trying to help," his daughter Charlene Bagley says.

His neighbours in Wentworth, N.S., say Bagley, a military veteran and retired firefighter, was killed Sunday morning as he walked toward a burning home on Hunter Road.

"If you knew him, you knew that was just who he was all the time," Charlene Bagley wrote in a Facebook post.

Bagley served as a firefighter at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport from 1975 to 2006, a spokeswoman for the airport authority said in an email.


Corrie Ellison

Ellison, 42, was remembered Monday as a thoughtful, kind friend who went out of his way to help others.

"He's the type of person that I don't think anybody would want to see that happen to him," his father Richard Ellison says.

Corrie Ellison lived in Truro, N.S., but was visiting his father in Portapique when he was killed. Richard Ellison declined to comment on how his son died.

Ashley Fennell says she was good friends with Corrie Ellison for almost a decade. She describes him as "a beautiful soul." 

Corrie Ellison was on disability support because of an old injury. He had no children of his own but he loved kids, Fennell says.

He would join Fennell and her son swimming in the summer and last Christmas, he offered some money for her son's gifts. He once paid for Fennell to take her son on a trip to a water park when she was struggling.

"I would call him, and it didn't matter what he was doing, he would jump for me," she says.

He had texted her about picking up a cigarette roller about a week ago, but the two never arranged a time with the ongoing pandemic. Fennell didn't know it would be the last time she talked to her friend.

"I didn't text him back right away and now I'm regretting all this," she says. "He was just such a nice guy."


Jolene Oliver, Aaron Tuck and Emily Tuck

The family members were neighbours of the shooter. Oliver's sister, Tammy Oliver-McCurdie, said the three were found dead in their Portapique, N.S., home.

Oliver was turning 40 this year and her husband was 45. Their daughter, Emily, was 17.

They had moved to the community after Tuck's father died a few years ago.

"No matter how much they went through in life they always stayed together, and there was times that they had nothing," Oliver-McCurdie said. 

The sisters grew up in Calgary and remained close into adulthood. Oliver-McCurdie said Oliver was a people person who loved working as a waitress, which she did for most of her life.

"She was such a great listener."

Emily was an intelligent girl who had plans to continue her education, but couldn't decide whether to pursue art or welding, her aunt said.

"That kid was so bright. She knew how to weld. She knew how to fix cars. She played the violin."


Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins

The Wentworth, N.S., couple were correctional officers.

McLeod's daughter, Taylor McLeod, said Jenkins worked at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro and McLeod worked at the Springhill Institution for more than 20 years.

McLeod's daughter said the couple deeply loved and cared for her, her little sister and Taylor's daughter.

"They would have done anything for anybody and they always made sure people were welcome in their home."

Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, issued a statement about the couple on Tuesday night.

"They worked hard to protect their communities and the inmates under their care," Blair said. 

"Alanna and Sean will be remembered for their commitment to public safety. They will be greatly missed by those who worked alongside them, and the friends and family who loved them."


Greg and Jamie Blair

The couple ran a firm that provides service, sales and installation of natural gas and propane units in the area where the shootings happened.

Relative Judy MacBurnie said the pair had two small children who are being cared for by grandparents. Greg Blair also had two older sons from an earlier relationship.

MacBurnie said her nephew was a "wonderful person who was always laughing and was the funniest person you ever met."

"He could find humour in anything and anybody .... You couldn't be around him too long because your face and belly hurt so bad from laughing.''

Alec Gratto, the younger brother of Jamie Blair, said his 41-year-old sister was born and raised in Masstown, N.S., and married Greg in 2014.

The family had a cottage in the Portapique area as the three children grew up, and her brother said his sister loved the outdoors and beach.

"It (Portapique) was a wonderful place for her," Gratto said.


Heather O'Brien

The Victorian Order of Nurses said O'Brien was a licensed practical nurse and had worked with VON for nearly 17 years.

O'Brien's daughter, Darcy Dobson, posted on Facebook about her mother.

"She was kind. She was beautiful. She didn't deserve any of this," Dobson wrote, pleading with friends and family not to let the shooting define her mother.

"I want everyone to remember how kind she was. How much she loved being a nurse," she wrote.

"The way her eyes sparkled when she talked to her grandchildren and the way she just loved Christmas. Let those things define her. Not the horrible way she died."

Portapique resident Lucille Adams says she knew O'Brien.

"She has so much compassion for the people she worked for and her family," she says. "She was a very loving person. She was always out there to help somebody. It's a tragedy that her family has to deal with this."


Gina Goulet

Goulet, a 54-year-old Shubenacadie, N.S., resident, beat cancer — twice.

Her daughter, Amelia Butler, said Goulet was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016. Goulet was warned that her prospects didn't look good, but she beat the odds.

Goulet was diagnosed with cancer a second time late last year, and had almost fully recovered when she died. 

"She fought so hard for her life," Butler said.

Goulet was a denturist for 27 years. Butler couldn't say whether her mother encountered the shooter, who worked in the same field.

Butler said her mother was an avid angler and would often retreat to her cottage with her two dogs to go bass fishing.

Goulet was also a salsa dancer who would travel to Cuba whenever she got the chance.

"That was the place where she was the happiest."


Kristen Beaton

Beaton had worked for the Victorian Order of Nurses for nearly six years. Her husband Nick Beaton says she cared so much for others, she sometimes forgot to take care of herself.

Beaton says he and their nearly two-year-old son, Daxton, were the greatest beneficiaries of the 33-year-old's nurturing nature.

He would often catch her watching videos of the toddler late into the night, even though she had taken them hours earlier.

"She loved her son more than I've seen anyone love anything ever," he said.

She similarly doted on her clients as a continuing care assistant with the V.O.N. She was en route to visit a client when she was killed Sunday.

But when COVID-19 hit Nova Scotia, Beaton said his pregnant wife came home from work afraid to hug her son because she felt the one surgical mask she received per 12-hour shift wasn't enough to prevent infection.

Now, Nick Beaton is working to amplify his wife's voice by pushing to ensure her health-care colleagues receive proper protective equipment.


Lisa McCully

McCully, 49, was a teacher at the elementary school in the community of Debert, N.S., and the mother of two children.

Paul Wozney, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said McCully was known as a passionate teacher and "as a shining love" in the lives of her friends and family.

Debert businessman Jonathan Baha'i says his young son Neo was one of McCully's students.

"Neo loved Mrs. McCully as did many of her students because of her high energy and passion for teaching," Baha'i says.

Baha'i posted a photo on Facebook that shows the forlorn little boy holding a green piece of construction paper with a drawing of a heart below the words: "I will miss you Mrs. McCully. Rest in peace."

A death notice in the Halifax Chronicle Herald described McCully as a gifted teacher.

"Lisa was always teaching and constantly had creative pursuits on the go, whether it was baking bread, harvesting mushrooms or playing music," it said. "To know Lisa was to know life in full colour."


Const. Heidi Stevenson

Stevenson, 48, had been with the RCMP for 23 years and was a mother of two.

"Heidi answered the call of duty and lost her life while protecting those she served," Nova Scotia RCMP Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman said in a statement.

"Two children have lost their mother and a husband his wife. Parents lost their daughter and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.

"There are no words to describe their pain."

A death notice published in the Halifax Chronicle Herald said Stevenson was determined to join the RCMP after graduating from Acadia University in 1993. She took on a number of roles with the force, including community policing, communications, drug recognition expert and representing the RCMP as part of the Musical Ride.

Off the job, the notice said, Stevenson "was the busy parent who volunteered at the school. She was the friend who delivered cinnamon buns and homemade bread. She was the second mom to many kids who came over to play. She was the gentle smile when you needed it most."

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union said Stevenson's husband, Dean Stevenson, teaches at Cole Harbour District High School.


The Canadian Press

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