TJ's Life Story
Our son, TJ, was a captivating and engaging young man who dreamed big dreams and yet enjoyed so many simple things in life.
TJ was a “planned” baby who was born on a Sunday morning on March 21, the first day of spring, 1982. Many people were waiting for his arrival, and after he was born on that Sunday, his Dad raced home to The United Church in Meadowood to light the celebration candle and tell everyone that he was finally here.
Many people have wondered why we chose to call our son TJ, rather than Trevor, his given name. Well, we have to tell you that the initials were chosen first and the names chosen to fit those initials, just in case, as an adult, he felt that initials were not dignified enough for a name. Trevor was chosen as one of those names because Floyd’s second name is Trevor. And so TJ became Trevor Jarrod Brandt Wiebe.
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TJ won the hearts of many, many people. From the time he was a little kid right up to the day he died, people would tell us how nice he was to have around. We were told over and over that TJ could play with so-and-so anytime, or TJ was a good influence on so-and-so, or “I like having TJ around because he is so respectful to us, as parents of his friends.”
TJ would sit down and visit with anyone, from child to adult. From the parents of Chad and Stacey’s teammates at baseball games, to the men clearing trail for the snowmobile club, TJ was known as such a nice kid whom anyone could have a conversation with.
We enjoyed TJ so much. We wanted him to see and do everything. He started piano lessons at the age of 3 and later studied guitar, trombone and tuba. He began swimming lessons at 6 months old and continued up through the levels and then certified as a scuba diver. TJ was a member of Beavers, Cubs and Scouts at the United Church in Meadowood where he also attended Sunday School. He played soccer and baseball with local community clubs and went on to become an umpire, as his first paid job.
TJ traveled across Canada from coast to coast and down into the US. He learned to pick blueberries and hunt for mushrooms at the lake and cherries and apples in BC. His first trip, at 3 months old, was to Castlegar, BC to have a 4-generation picture taken with his grandpa and his great grandma and grandpa, O’Morrow.
TJ was 4 when we went to Expo ‘86. There were so many wonderful things there for kids and he enjoyed it all! We also went to Stanley Park. If you are a man reading this, and you have ever there and gone into the men’s washroom, you will remember the “trough”. His Mom remembers so clearly, Floyd coming out of that washroom, holding TJ’s little 4 year old hand, and telling her about how TJ had run his finger along the liquid in the trough and said, “What’s this Daddy?”
Watch a video of TJ's life.
A few years later, on one of our many trips to see great grandma O’Morrow in BC, we took a cable car up to the top of Whistler Mountain in Jasper Park. If you have ever been there, you will know that the cable car only goes close to the top. To get to the summit, you have about an hour and a half walk, but we were game for it. When we got to the top, each of us chose a rock to make a cairn to commemorate the achievement of our family in reaching the summit. We videoed all around the site, planning to return to find the “Wiebe Cairn” some day, as a family. In the summer of 2002, Karen was looking through our family videos and came across a video of us coming back down from the summit, singing together a new version to an old Sunday School chorus. It became Climb, Climb Down Whistler Mountain.
TJ was 7 when we traveled to Disney World. Our enjoyment of that trip was seeing Disney World through our kids’ eyes. In fact our greatest memory is when we convinced TJ that he really had been shrunk and was traveling through someone’s bloodstream to find a sliver.
The summer that TJ was 12, he and his Mom took a camping trip to the mountains. They had a wonderful trip. His Mom remembers the enjoyment of watching TJ. He was such a handsome, self-possessed young man. When they would stop for lunch, he would haul out the Coleman stove and make them both lunch! He enjoyed whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River, and water sliding at the West Edmonton Mall.
That winter, our family went to Hawaii for Christmas. It was there that he really discovered a fascination with “under the sea”. From snorkeling at Hanauma Bay to scuba diving in Waikiki Bay, a desire grew in him to find a career in water activities. His first thought was to become a Navy Seal and he would have made a good one! His second thought was to become an underwater specialty welder, and that was what he was currently working toward when he was taken from us. He was just finishing his welding diploma at Winnipeg Technical College, and after his journeyman training, he wanted to go to a Vancouver school to become a certified specialist.
TJ took on the world with gusto. He loved going to the farm to visit with his great uncle Wes and Aunt Bernice and cousin Ted. He would play on the hay bales and on the tractors. He enjoyed riding horseback. He enjoyed his two trips to the east coast, once when he was very young and once to attend his cousin, Laura’s wedding. He even traveled once to Seattle, Washington with Air Cadets.
But TJ’s overwhelming love was for the lake. He told us many times that all he wanted out of life would be to build a guest cottage on our property and live there “when he grew up – just like Arnie!” He also told us that he planned to live at home until he was 45, although we weren’t too sure that that would work!
As a young child, TJ spent countless hours out in the woods, exploring islands, swimming and fishing. He enjoyed so much, visiting with his Aunty Colleen, Uncle Cam and Cousins, and with all of our neighbours, while they were inside their cabins, outside at the dock, in the water or in a boat. He spent a lot of time next door at the Gross’s. When we would scold him for taking up too much of their time, they would always tell us to leave him there to visit, because they enjoyed him so much.
TJ loved ice fishing and he spent countless hours with his Uncle Cam, Aunty Colleen and cousins sitting around a fire on the ice waiting for fish that seldom ever seemed to bite. Every year he would enter the ice-fishing derby at Bird Lake, and spend the day with Uncle Bev and Danny Fyfe, and Johnny Rioux.
TJ developed a love for archery and he would go off for hours by himself, bow hunting for grouse. And he would get some too! He would clean them himself, and then with his Dad’s help, cook them up into some delicious appetizers.
But the overwhelming love of TJ’s life was snowmobiling. From the time he was young, he enjoyed zipping along the trails and playing in the snow. In fact, one year, he went with his school on a ski/snowboarding trip to BC. When he returned, he said that snowboarding was OK, but when he saw people snowmobiling in the mountains, he wished so much that he could have joined them instead.
TJ treasured his Yamaha Phazer, and when he needed a project to work on for Auto Body Class at Winnipeg Technical College, his only thought was to repaint his Phazer. He did a beautiful job. Unfortunately, he rode his trusty Phazer only one time after that. We will never sell that machine!
TJ was a joy to see on a snowmobile. He was so strong and confident. He just played in the snow, looking for “powder” wherever he could find it. Floyd would never ride in front of TJ, as he so much enjoyed watching TJ have so much fun. Once, when on the lake, he cut across the tip of an island, and passed right over a cow moose and her calf. We don’t know who was more surprised, TJ or the moose! Often, when we would get down to the lake, on a Friday night, he would help unload the van, and then he would gas up all four snowmobiles for the whole family and get them warmed up so we could go on a run together.
I will never forget a ride we did with our snowmobile club to Gimli. When we were getting ready to leave, he went with some other guys over to the gas station to gas up Floyd’s V-Max, bought specially for the run. He was only 15 and had never gassed up a vehicle before, never mind a snowmobile. He accidentally put diesel fuel in the tank! Thankfully, before any damage was done, he discovered that he put the wrong fuel in, and they were able to siphon it out.
He enjoyed, so much, breaking open new trails and searching for adventure. Like the parents we are, we worried when he went off the trail, out over some lake or down some trapper’s trail. But he was always very careful. In fact, in the winter of 2004, the Nopiming Snomads Snowmobile Club named a very picturesque trail after our son and called it “TJ’s Way”. We are very honoured indeed.
Brian and Linda Gray are friends from the lake. The Grays have a son, Scott, who is only a year older than TJ. They told us that when they moved into Booster Lake about 10 years ago, one of their first visitors was TJ. By the time he left that first day, they knew the history of Booster Lake and felt that they had known the Wiebes all their lives. The Grays noted that TJ was not afraid of work and we would lend a hand whenever needed. As a result of meeting TJ, they said, we have been blessed with a very special family, who have treated us as family and included us in their celebrations.
Shortly after the funeral, the Superintendent of Louis Riel School Division; Terry Borys called Floyd and extended his condolences. At the end of the conversation he said, “I want to tell you that TJ was a good kid… Actually, I want to take that back, TJ was a great kid!” Not once, during his short life did we receive a call from his schools asking us to come in and deal with a problem. We only heard that he was a pleasure to have in class.
TJ was a good mix of both of us as parents, but he was overwhelmingly like his Dad. Sitting between the two of them for any length of time was like sitting in the midst of a whirlwind. It would make your head spin! They both have this sense of logic and such a persuasive ability to convince you about what they’re talking about, that if you didn’t agree, it was much easier to just pretend that you did! It seems to me, that he spent much of his life wanting to emulate his Dad. When Floyd couldn’t find some article of clothing, all he had to do was to look in TJ’s room and he’d find it. He even wore Floyd’s cologne. Even though he really wasn’t, his Mom jokingly thought of him as Floyd’s “Mini Me”.
But TJ was like his Mom too. They both love adventure and going places and trying new things. And they share a love of nature and animals and the outdoors. His Mom remembers when they went from being a one-snowmobile family to a two-snowmobile family. TJ was so excited because now he and his Mom could go off together on an evening run.
TJ was a really intense person. His feelings were easily hurt and he felt things deeply, although he seldom showed it. Loyalty was a very important quality to him and he worked very hard to be a loyal friend. Even when he felt betrayed, he said to us that he would always forgive those who betrayed him. One of these conversations occurred just hours before he was murdered.
When TJ was a very small child, he would agonize over leaving one of us alone. If his Dad was going somewhere and asked TJ to go along, he worried that his Mom would feel lonely if he went. But on the other hand, if he stayed with his Mom, he worried that Floyd would feel lonely going by himself.
As TJ grew up, he came to understand the depths of the love we had for him. He knew that we would never turn our back on him; that he could always count on us. We know this, both because of what he told us and what he told others.
We also came to understand the depths of his love for us. TJ never left the house or finished a telephone call without saying, “Bye Mom/Dad. Love you, kiss and hugs!” and it didn’t matter which or how many of his friends were standing beside him. These words now appear on a large memorial rock that Floyd discovered when digging for a memorial pond at our cottage at Booster Lake. You can see a movie and pictures of “TJ’s Garden” in his website.
His Mom can still hear him say, as he said every single time he got up from the table, “Thanks for supper, Momma!”
Our lives, since January 5, 2003, have been crushed beyond repair. But we do have some parting gifts that TJ gave us. TJ had wonderful conversations with each of us during the last week or so of his life, and on that last morning before he was so cruelly taken from us, he called us at the lake. Our conversations with him were unbelievably profound.
It has been hard for us to accept that there could be such evil in the world that would allow something this horrible to happen. This is something that when you read about it in the newspapers, in some far away city, you shudder and thank God that it isn’t you. To even know someone that this has happened to is unbelievable, let alone for that person to be our son. There is nothing that will ever take away the pain of this time in our lives.
But along with the pain, is the knowledge that we are a strong family. We have two fabulous children whom we love beyond belief, and they give us the courage to try to go on. And we have discovered that along with great evil, there is also great good. We have been so very blessed by the support of our families. We have had thousands of people praying for us, and we have felt the support of that prayer. That is evidence of the great good that there is in the world.
We have also had fabulous support from our very close friends, who have done everything in the world that they could do to help us make it through this horrible time.
It is hard to see our way through this, but we must we have faith that somehow TJ’s death will not be in vain. The pain of losing him makes it impossible to imagine that the void in our lives will ever go away. But all those who loved TJ have work ahead of them if his death will not be in vain and you all know what that work is. We have established the “TJ Wiebe Educational Awareness Fund” as a start in that direction.