Three weeks to the day they were killed in a shooting in Lund, the lives of two young men were celebrated by nearly 600 hundred people gathered at Evergreen Theatre on Saturday, July 8.
The friendship of Braxton Leask, 20, and Dylan Buckle, 20, has been described as being as close as brothers. They grew up together, lived together, died together and were honoured together.
The two men were shot and killed inside a home on the 1500 block of Scotch Place early in the morning of June 17.
“Everything came to a stop. It was a wicked act,” said memorial service emcee Ariana Sian, who is engaged to Leask’s brother Taylor.
The tragedy left the community shocked and scarred; the grief and mourning has not abated for many, especially the victims’ families.
“In the mornings, I’m pretty good. I just try to get up and get going and do as much as I can,” said Braxton’s mother Nichelle Guignard. “As the day goes by, I can’t seem to do much. He’s never out of my mind.”
Surrounded by memories of her son, Guignard said she has not begun to heal, but the outpouring from the community, her family and friends is helping to overcome the hurt.
“Right now, I have all of his belongings here and I haven’t really gone through all that stuff yet. It’s just difficult,” she said. “Trying to not be angry is the biggest thing. I’m angry because he can’t continue to be the great person he was.”
During the afternoon ceremony, people of the Powell River region came together and paused in an act of kindness, outpouring of affection and remembrance for Leask and Buckle.
“The love from everybody in the community for these two boys, these two young boys who had such short lives and yet seem to have made such an impact on so many people, gave me great comfort,” said Dylan’s mother Terry after the service.
Jerseys with their Powell River Villa soccer club numbers, nine for Buckle and 11 for Leask, hung beneath photos of both men. Family, close friends and teammates gave deeply personal eulogies before a full theatre.
As photographs of the men’s lives together flashed on a screen, Guignard, Dylan’s brother Robert and Braxton’s brother Calum, father Rod and sister Miranda, as well as Villa president Jamie Zroback, Villa player Kye Taylor and the two victims’ friend Dylan Quesnel, came to the stage to tell their stories.
For Terry, who had not been to Powell River since her son and Leask graduated from Brooks Secondary School three years ago, other than a quick trip one week ago, it was a surreal experience returning for the finality of putting the friends to rest.
“I was anxious about the service,” said Terry. “In the end, it was just wonderful and another step in the healing process. To see the community support behind these two boys, in particular the Villa soccer club, was absolutely unbelievable.”
Much was made of Leask’s and Buckle’s love of soccer and for Villa, the team they had played for and had planned to take the field for again in the coming Vancouver Island Soccer League season. The two were described by team officials as “Villa boys” with “Villa hearts.”
The club made a significant gesture, one that is highly regarded in all sports at every level. Players will wear the team’s new home and away jerseys with the men’s initials on the sleeves.
“Years down the road, when you have new players who come on who may have not have known the boys, the story will live on of who they were, and their characters and what they meant to the team,” said Zroback.
After the formal ceremony, past and present Villa players and their fans all rose to sing the Villa song in a rousing final farewell.
Tributes from Villa, as well as a deeply sentimental song from a young local musician, will live on for Terry, she said.
“It was also Austin Parise’s song,” said Terry. “What a musically gifted young man. My son Dylan was extremely proud of Austin. It was fitting that Austin sang and it was just absolutely magical. It was just beautiful.”
Parise’s acoustic eulogy, while choking back tears of grief, was the most raw and heartfelt emotion of the ceremony. The song was “Swing Life Away” by Rise Against.
“It’s a song about outgrowing your home and running away with good friends and getting to a new place with the people you love,” said Parise.
Buckle, Leask and Parise, friends since childhood, lived together for a year until last September. Singing the song from one of their favourite bands was harder than Parise thought it was going to be.
“It was Dylan’s favourite band,” said Parise. “They both loved to sing that song and just belt it out.”
Terry said she wanted to thank all of the people who were involved in organizing and putting on the service.
“Coming back this weekend was just the next step in sending the boys on their journey to their next adventure,” said Terry. “It was absolutely the most wonderful way to send these boys off. It was just phenomenal.”
Shooting suspect Jason Foulds, 19, of Powell River, has remained in custody, awaiting his next court appearance on Monday, July 24, in Campbell River for a hearing to consult with counsel.
Foulds has been formally charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of the attempted murder of Zane Hernandez.
“Although I didn’t know the family and I didn’t know him, I feel for them very much,” said Guignard.
Terry said she believes Saturday’s service, Villa’s gesture and a possible scholarship in the men’s names is going to continue to help heal the community and bring it closer together.
Leask’s mother’s final words captured the essence of the lives of the two men, the service and the community.
“Spread your love,” said Guignard during the service. “That’s what I would like you to leave with today.”