“A WALK TO REMEMBER AND GIVE THANKS”

“The only things that stand between a person and what they want in life are the will to try it, and the faith to believe it’s possible.”

Rich Devos

On December 5, 2008, Paula’s family, friends, colleagues and students gathered in the BLT school gymnasium to celebrate what would have been her 39th birthday and to give thanks to a community who has opened their hearts and provided unconditional support to Paula’s family and friends.

Since Paula’s death, we have been blessed to have the unconditional support of the administration and staff of the BLT school. Each event remembering Paula has been hosted at her school and there are no words that could ever express the gratitude we feel in our hearts. BLT’s Principal, Mr. Kevin Power and his staff were on hand for the set up, insisted on doing the clean up and encouraged full participation of their school community. Whatever we needed was provided to us including the eager faces of all the students who helped us with the event. BLT was such a significant part of Paula’s life and allowing us to remember her in a place she loved provides us with a special connection to this wonderful woman. Thank you to our BLT friends for all you continue to do.

As guests entered the gymnasium they were greeted by the sounds of bagpipes played by Cape Breton’s own, Ms. Karen MacLean. Those in attendance placed Purple ribbons over their hearts in support of the National Day of Remembrance and Action of Violence Against Women which is recognized on December 6th in Canada. Displays were placed in the gym showcasing the build of Paula’s Place, the $150,000 Reward Poster and special photos of Paula. Our friends at Crabapple Cottage Floral & Gifts in Timberlea once again created beautiful flower arrangements for the evening and Paula’s magnificent purple P’s could be found throughout the tastefully decorated gym.

Paula’s oldest sister Lynn was the MC and she opened the evening extending thanks to all those who continue to offer their prayers, support, love and friendship to the family. She reminded us to feel happiness in our hearts and to feel thankful for having Paula in our lives as she touched so many in such a positive way. As we remembered Paula, Lynn asked each of us to also take time and remember every precious life that has been lost by violence in our society.

Lynn introduced the guest speakers which are outlined on the program. We also had the distinct please of having the Honourable Geoff Regan, P.C., M.P. and his wife Kelly in attendance.

Mr. Kevin Power warmly invited everyone to BLT and gave a very heartfelt tribute to Paula and all he had come to know about her as an educator, colleague and friend. It was a very touching and memorable speech that left many in deep reflection.

Paula’s sister Lana talked about Paula and her involvement and connection to her community. One of her passions was walking with her dog, Coady and later her daughter Anna on the wonderful Rails to Trails in her community. She was an avid outdoor enthusiast and encouraged her students to live an active and healthy lifestyle. In planning this event, we talked about the importance of the community support we have received and the fact Paula would want us to give thanks to her community for all they have done and continue to do for so many in this journey. We knew Paula would be pleased if we found a project that would benefit the majority…including the young, the old and of course, the dogs!

Lynn and Lana had met with the BLT Board in the fall to discuss options and this evening, on behalf of Paula’s family and friends, Lana had the pleasure of presenting a $1500.00 donation to the BLT Rails to Trails Association in Paula’s memory. Jean Harris, Board Member of the BLT Rails to Trails Association accepted the donation on Paula’s behalf and explained that the money would be used to purchase a history panel that would be erected on the trail near Paula’s school. A plaque would be placed on the panel in memory of Paula.

As in previous years, Superintendent Darrell Beaton reaffirmed their commitment in solving Paula’s case and finding her murder. He indicated the case was an active file and that the Reward Program, awareness campaigns, media support and public events certainly help to keep the case top of mind both within the public and within the policy agencies responsible for solving violent crime. His words comforted all in attendance

The Honourable Minister Dooks brought greetings from both Premier MacDonald and Justice Minster Clarke who could not be in attendance. Both Minster Dooks and his wife Colleen were pleased to participate in such an important event. “Standing here this evening, in a place where Paula influenced the lives of her students and colleagues gives me hope that one day those responsible for her tragic death will be brought to justice.: He acknowledged, through Lynn’s efforts that the Department of Justice increased the Reward Program to $150,000.00 and indicated it was a step in the right direction toward bringing the closure we all seek.

Thanks to the “Friends of Paula” organization, over 500 residents in Timberela received the new Reward Posters the week of Paula’s birthday as well as an invitation to join in her December 5th event.

Bill Estabrooks, MLA and Justice Critic for the Province of Nova Scotia continues to be a proactive voice for Paula. His committment to Paula’s unsolved murder, his determination and most importantly the compassion in which he speaks, makes people stop and listen. He has done amazing things for Paula and her family and continues to do so.

Bill presented Lana and Lynn with the 250 Democracy Award for their efforts in seeking justice for Paula, in their work with Victim Services and in creating awareness about violence against women. Both Lynn and Lana were both honoured and overwhelmed as recipients of such a prestigious award. In her thanks, Lynn talked about the significance of the work that has been done in creating awareness about violence and highlighted some key notes about the number of violent crimes against women, the number of unsolved cases and the fact that the United Nations recently called violence against women a pandemic – a social ill.  She indicated we need to become a society that will not tolerate violence against women….we can no longer look the other way!

Paula’s guests welcomed Ms Audra Raulyns, two time ECMA winner to BLT to share her music and special message of hope for Paula and for all women who have been victims of violence. During her performance of ‘I’ll Be” the audience was in awe of her powerful voice as they sat in awe gently wiping their tears as they silently reflected on their memories of Paula and all we have lost.

A longtime family friend of the family, Louise Christie then presented the book she has written in loving memory of Paula and dedicated to her daughter, Anna. She had invited the children in the audience to join her at the podium as she introduced her book, sharing with the audience the wonderful artistry of Joan Power, an artist from Paula’s home town, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

Ms. Catherine Joudrey, a former student of Paula read a poem she had written for a much respected teacher. As she read the silence which permeated the gymnasium was deafening. Paula’s impact upon Catherine will ever be ingrained in her mind;; her thoughtfulness in sharing her words and emotions was truly inspirational.

The evening concluded with birthday cake and wonderful conversation which was followed by “A Walk to Remember” on the BLT Rails to Trails. The candlelight vigil to the site chosen for a history panel honoring Paula’s memory was emotional, comforting and uplifting. And with each step taken, Paula walked beside us.

Program (opens in new window)
A Message from Minister Dooks
(coming soon)
$150,000 Reward Poster
Minister Bolivar-Getson recognizes National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada (opens in new window)
Bill Estabrooks presents 250 Democracy Award (opens in new window)
Audra Raulyns sings "I'll Be"

Miss Gallant's Favourite Season
A Poem for Paula
Media (opens in new window)
A Walk to Remember - Gallery