Trent Ernst, Editor
And just like that, there is a Leesa-shaped hole ripped in the heart of this community.
People have made fun of me because my kids keep showing up in the paper, but the truth is, Hannah and Grace, Leesa’s two daughters, have probably shown up in these pages more than mine.
It wasn’t a deliberate choice to run photos of them, but the thing is, they are almost always at the local events. They are at the Winter Carnival and Library Club. They are out playing in the snow and participating in events.
The most recent time one of her kids was on the cover of the paper was just last week, when Hannah was pictured as part of a group of people cleaning up the gravel pit. (In fact, the last thing Leesa posted to her Facebook page was the cover of the paper.)
They were there because she was there. She was always there. She participated fully in this community, drinking deeply of its spirit, and instead of lessing the community, she adding her own essence to what makes Tumbler Ridge Tumbler Ridge and made it a richer place to be.
And now, she’s not here, her departure sudden and abrupt and devestating, not just for her family but for the many friends she had made here in Tumbler Ridge.
Leesa hadn’t been here long—only a couple years—but she quickly became one of those people who defined the Tumbler Ridge experience. She loved it here so much that last year she put her name in as a candidate for the local elections, though she decided (or was pursuaded) that she hadn’t been in town long enough to run for council.
She was so involved that it seems strange to consider that some might not know who she is. Maybe you don’t know her as Leesa, but maybe you know her under one of her other guises: the cookie lady (she was a passionate baker), the good food lady (under her guidance the program grew to having 150 people signed up) or one of a dozen other hats she wore, especially a toque, as she famously was one of the few non-sledders who loved Tumbler Ridge even more in winter.
If you knew who to look for, you would see her everywhere. The last time I saw her was just a few days ago at a Council budgeting meeting, her face red from too much sun because, as always, she had been out that day, living life to its fullest.
Back when she decided to withdraw from the Council race, she told me she had been criticized for thinking that she could run for office having only been here for seven months at the time. What people don’t understand is that, in that seven months, she participated more fully in this community than many people who have lived here since the town was built. Some people merely exist in a place, but Leesa? She lived here. She lived and loved and in the short time she was here she made a dent in this community, leaving behind fingerprints on our very souls as she touched so many people.
“I’m proud of the decision I made,” said Leesa when asked about not running for Council. “I was wowed by the support I did receive. This is home, no questions asked. I am so grateful for the people who supported me.
“I feel I am still an asset, and have a lot to offer, but I can do it without being in the public eye, where I’m not criticized for my actions. I truly love TR and I want the best for Tumbler. There are people who are running that I am very supportive of, people who have the best interests of Tumbler Ridge at heart. I do too, but I can’t make that commitment right now. We’ll see what happens in four more years.”
She never got that chance, and we never got a chance to see what would have happened if she had four more years here. We are the lesser for it.
Farewell, Leesa. We will miss you.