‘Gone but Never Forgotten’: Memorial Grows for Regina Teen Killed in Parking-Lot Collision

I didn’t know Athan McEwen. I don’t know his family or his friends or his teachers.

Yet on Monday night, I felt compelled to visit the parking lot in south Regina where three days earlier, Athan, 15, died after he was hit by a vehicle.

The spot has become a memorial and gathering place for Athan’s friends.

After reading about the parking-lot memorial online on local news sites, I decided to go see it in person.

I was curious.

I wanted to honour the youth, show support for the people who knew and loved him, and pay my respects.

About 12 people, most of them teenagers, are at the memorial site when I arrive.

One of the mothers, there to support her grieving son, asks if I have children.

I tell her I don’t, but I am blessed and fortunate to have children in my life, wonderful nieces and nephews I love very much.

It’s always heartbreaking when a child dies. It’s not the natural order of things.

Hopes and dreams come to a sudden, unexpected halt. Loved ones must summon the strength to live their lives without the lost one.

And in some cases, they must learn to overcome feelings of guilt.

The woman tells me her son wasn’t there the night Athan died. He believes that if he had joined his friends at the parking lot, a hangout for teenagers, perhaps he could have prevented the accident.

One of Athan’s teachers, accompanied by a friend for support, hugs a teenage boy before she leaves.

A young woman tells me she had known Athan all her life. Their mothers are friends.

The words “gone but never forgotten” have been spray-painted in blue on the pavement. Friends have also used spray paint to write their names and more messages.

One friend says the messages and names have grown throughout the day.

At the centre of the memorial is a heart spray-painted on the ground. Inside the heart, family and friends have placed bouquets of flowers, photographs, candles and a cross.

A note from Athan’s mother, Sophie Maroudis, on a photograph of her son reads: “I love you so much my boy, Mom.”

On the same photograph, Athan’s father, Sean McEwen, has written: “My hero. Love, Dad.”

Some of Athan’s favourite things are there: a motocross helmet, a container of Froot Loops, two cans of Monster Energy drink and a tray with four Coke drinks.

There’s a hall pass, too. Friends say he always had one with him.

A young man picks up a photograph and waves it in the air, shouting to friends who are leaning up against a car that it’s his favourite picture of Athan.

“Grade 4,” he replies to a question.

As friends leave, others arrive to take their place.

They hug, wipe tears from their faces and share stories of one of their own, taken from them too soon.




Portrait of Toronto Van Attack Victim

It’s been one week since a Toronto man struck down pedestrians along a stretch of one of that city’s busiest streets using a rental van.

We don’t know yet why the driver mounted the sidewalk on Yonge Street in north Toronto, hitting women and men in his path, leaving them bleeding and broken.

Police continue to investigate the horrific event.

Ten innocent lives were lost on April 23, on what was a warm, sunny spring day in my hometown. Sixteen people were injured.

Anne Marie D’Amico was among the 10 killed. She was 30 years old.

She worked at Invesco Canada, a U.S.-based investment management firm with offices in a 25-storey building at 5140 Yonge Street, in the area where the van rampage occurred.

Anne Marie was knocked down as she returned from lunch.

Sammantha Samson, a co-worker of Anne Marie’s, was also hit on her way back from lunch. She survived, with injuries.

Their co-workers heard the police and ambulance sirens from their offices. My brother was one of them.

“She was nice,” he said about Anne Marie, who worked on his floor. Sammantha works on another floor.

It was quiet at work the day after the van attack. Half of the employees on my brother’s floor were absent. Those who there, including my brother, left early.

Through media reports about the tragedy, Torontonians and people across Canada and around the world, including in Regina, Saskatchewan, where I live, know Anne Marie’s name and the names of the other victims and parts of their stories.

We have learned that Anne Marie was a happy person, always smiling.

She had studied at Ryerson University, where she graduated with a degree in business management in 2010.

She was a longtime volunteer with the Rogers Cup tennis tournament. Anne Marie started out as a ball girl when she was 12 and went on to become an integral part of the volunteer team, most recently serving as committee head of stadium control. She was voted volunteer of the year in 2016.

Anne Marie also volunteered to build houses for people in need in the Dominican Republic. She roomed with Sammantha on one trip.

After Anne Marie was struck down, a man comforted her until the paramedics arrived. He saw the white van head toward Anne Marie and hit her. He went beside her, got on his knees and held her hand. She was breathing, and her eyes were open. He told her help was on the way. He heard one passerby refer to her by name.

Anne Marie was rushed to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, but she was pronounced dead in hospital.

Gone too soon. Too young.

The rest of her dreams never to be realized.

The remainder of her hopes shattered.

Her family left with only memories and an empty chair at the dining table.

Anne Marie was the daughter of Rocco and Carmela D’Amico. She was sister to Frances and Nick, sister-in-law to Rachel, aunt to Elouise and granddaughter to Franca Romualdi.

Rest in peace, Anne Marie.

Rest in peace:

Remembering the Late Times-Herald


My first day at the Moose Jaw Times-Herald was October 31, 1994.


New co-workers wore costumes. One of them, dressed in black and donning a witch’s hat, told me not to worry about remembering their names.

Everyone would look different the next day.

I’ve thought a lot about that day and all the other days I spent at the Times-Herald as a reporter since I learned in November that the newspaper, which published its last edition this month after 128 years, was closing.

I drove to a farm south of Moose Jaw for one of my first assignments, a story about two brothers who were members of the Moose Jaw 4-H Beef Club and raised beef calves. One brother looked after a red Angus; the other brother’s project was a white Charolais.

My questions gave me away. I knew nothing about farm life. To their credit, the brothers and their parents were patient with me and provided thoughtful answers that helped me understand what it was they did.

After the story I wrote appeared in the newspaper, the boys’ parents told a fellow Times-Herald reporter, a man knowledgeable about all things rural, that they were pleasantly surprised with what I produced. They had been worried about how the piece would unfold.

I was glad to hear it.

I loved the daily challenge of learning new things and sharing what I learned with readers.

I moved to Moose Jaw after spending almost four months at the Prince Albert Daily Herald. The managing editor of the Daily Herald recommended me to his counterpart at the Times-Herald after he learned about an opening in the newsroom.

I graduated from Toronto’s Ryerson University with a journalism degree that spring. Eager to find work in my field and hone my reporting and writing skills, this Ontarian said yes to the far-from-home opportunities Saskatchewan offered.

The Times-Herald gave me a chance to tell stories.

Stories that mattered to the community.

Stories that made a difference to the people of Moose Jaw.

Stories that informed, educated, entertained and inspired.

Stories about people I haven’t forgotten.

Like the mother of the eight-year-old girl who fell into the Moose Jaw River while playing with one of her brothers and a friend. The girl’s body was discovered 18 days later. She had drowned. The girl’s mother shared stories of her beloved daughter with me at the family’s house. The next day, we visited the spot where the girl’s body was found. Kind, caring Moose Jaw residents had covered the spot with artificial flowers. The grieving mother liked going there and seeing the flowers. They gave her comfort during a devastating time.

Like the family that shared the story of the teenage daughter and sister who committed suicide. The girl’s parents, her sister and her brother welcomed me into their home, where we looked through photo albums filled with pictures of a young woman whose beautiful smile masked the struggles she faced, struggles that became too much for her to handle.

My Times-Herald newsroom colleagues and I put in long hours. We loved the work and did our best for the stories we covered.

The pay was low, but the experiences we had and the friendships we made were invaluable.

We took breaks from work long enough to get coffee at a nearby coffee shop. Always to go, because back at the newsroom, stories waited to be completed. Deadlines loomed.

When we weren’t working, we told tales and shared jokes over drinks at our favourite watering holes.

We played slo-pitch under prairie skies in the spring and summer, cheered on the Moose Jaw Warriors during hockey season and rooted for the Moose Jaw Diamond Dogs in baseball season.

Because of the Times-Herald, I met my husband. A sportswriter, he was in Moose Jaw covering a hockey game for another newspaper; I was at the game with a co-worker he knew.

I never went back to the Times-Herald since I left the building in 1999, after four and a half years, and now I never will.

Thanks for everything, Times-Herald.

Rest in peace.

Cellist Raises Funds for Cancer Research

Girl sitting in chair playing the cello

Yesterday was National Philanthropy Day, a day to celebrate volunteerism, giving and charitable engagement in our communities.

I thought about the young philanthropist I encountered at the Regina Farmers’ Market on a Saturday in early September.

I heard the cellist before I saw her.

The pleasant sounds emanating from her instrument caught my attention when I arrived at the farmers’ market.

The musician was sitting on a chair in the space between the Regina Public Library’s pop-up store and the bike stand.

The music stand in front of her stood atop a sign that read: “All proceeds go to Toonies for Terry Cancer Research Fundraiser at St. Pius School.”

I assumed the sign referred to The Terry Fox Foundation, which schoolchildren across Canada support every year with fundraising activities in the weeks and days leading up to the Foundation’s annual Terry Fox Run.

I placed money in the jar that sat on the sign. Other people had placed coins and bills inside the jar before me.

The girl’s mother, who stood nearby holding sheet music in her hands, told me her daughter has been playing the cello for five years.

Before that day, the St. Pius School student had only appeared in recitals. She had planned to perform a couple of songs at the farmers’ market but decided to keep playing.

She was fearless, never missing a beat.

The people who stopped to listen to the cellist, who placed donations in the money jar, who took pictures and videos did not distract her.

The girl’s eyes were fixed on the sheet music in front of her as the fingers on her left hand moved along the neck of the cello and her right hand guided the bow back and forth.

She wore a yellow T-shirt, black leggings and running shoes. A headband kept her hair off her face.

I don’t know what connection she has to cancer. I didn’t ask.

Did she share her talent that day in honour of a family member who faced cancer? In memory of a loved one who lost a cancer battle? For a friend? A teacher? The parent of a friend?

Whatever the reason, the girl was doing something she hoped would make a difference in cancer research and in the lives of people dealing with cancer.

Well done, young lady.

Scenes from an Autumn Walk in Wascana Centre

I love autumn.

The cool, crisp mornings.

The crunch of leaves under my feet.

The sight of leaves of red and gold on the trees lining city streets and standing tall in the parks.

My favourite place in Regina to enjoy the beauty, magic and wonder of fall is Wascana Centre.

Let me show you.

Follow along as I share scenes from the walk I took in the city’s jewel of a park on Sept. 23.

Ten Things I Learned from Inspiring Women

IMG_2792 (Edited)

I attended the Canada’s Farm Progress Show Empowering Women Conference last month.

The three-hour event, held in the AGT Lounge at Mosaic Stadium, featured four businesswomen who shared their stories.

Dianna Emperingham is former director of product supply at BayerCropScience.

Joan Heath is past chair and past vice-chair of SaskCanola.

Deb Button is the former mayor of Weyburn.

Rachel Mielke is the founder and chief executive officer of Hillberg & Berk Jewellery.

I left the conference feeling inspired and motivated.

I would like to share 10 things I learned from the quartet of inspiring women.

  1. Celebrate your achievements.
  2. Get to know your colleagues and show them you care.
  3. Seek a mentor to advise you on your career. A mentor means something different to everyone. Surround yourself with amazing people. What really matters is the connections you make.
  4. Set your own goals. Don’t let someone else set your goals for you. Assess where you are today. Is where you are enough?
  5. Take care of you. Triage your stress. Ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in five minutes? In one hour? One day? Two days? Five days? Five weeks? What is the worst-possible scenario?” Find a way to recharge so you are better equipped to deal with stress.
  6. Shape your future through the choices you make. Follow your passion. Your primary role is to dream and dream big. Don’t be afraid to soar to the highest levels. Look for what inspires and motivates you. Opportunities unfold at the right time. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities and be ready when they come. Seize those opportunities even when they present themselves as challenges.
  7. Accept that some things are beyond your control. The sooner you can move on from disappointment, the better. You learn more lessons from your failures than your successes.
  8. Always trust your instincts. They’re usually right.
  9. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. It’s okay not to have all the answers and to ask for help.
  10. Show up.

Saturday Night Football at New Mosaic Stadium

It was a gorgeous night for football when the Saskatchewan Roughriders played a pre-season game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday in Regina.

The game, which ended in a tie at 25-25, was the first Canadian Football League contest at new Mosaic Stadium.

Isn’t the venue a beauty?