Joey Webber, one of the victims of Nova Scotia’s mass shootings, is remembered as a hard-working father who was always ready to lend a helping hand with a smile.
Darren Bezanson, a neighbour and longtime family friend of Webber’s in Wyses Corner, N.S., about 50 kilometres north of Halifax, watched him grow up and recalls seeing him always playing outside the family home with his sister.
Webber later moved into that childhood home on Old Guysborough Road with his partner, Shanda MacLeod, and their daughters, now aged six and one.
All of Bezanson’s memories of Webber, who was in his late 30s, involve him with a smile on his face, since he can’t remember a time he ever saw him angry or upset.
Webber was outgoing and a great neighbour, who would come and help no matter what you needed, and never looked for anything in return.
Like his dad before him, Bezanson said Webber was a woodsman. He grew up around horses, since Webber’s father ran a forestry business using horses, and also machines, for logging in the woods around their community.
A GoFundMe set up by his partner’s family said Webber had been recently out of work due to Northern Pulp’s closure affecting many in forestry, but had started back to work just a couple days before he died.
Bezanson said Webber’s partner has taken their daughters to her mother’s house for now so the homestead is sitting empty. Webber’s 14-year-old daughter from a previous relationship lives just across the street with his sister.
Bezanson’s last memory of Webber was about five weeks ago, when his daughters and partner had found Bezanson’s missing wallet along the road.
Webber came out his front door just as always, with his big rubber boots on, a cigarette in his mouth and smiling, Bezanson said.
“We stood there and we talked and laughed and that. And you know, that’s my last memory of him and it’s a happy one. All my memories with Joey, and his whole family, is happy. But I’m glad that, you know, I got to see him.”
Bezanson said that on Sunday morning, Webber heard there was an active shooter situation around Portapique, N.S., and wanted to get an errand out of the way.
He told his family he was headed to get furnace oil at the Milford gas station “before that crazy guy” came closer and started shooting people.
“Just joking, right, as Joey. Always happy-go-lucky,” Bezanson said Tuesday.
After getting his oil, Webber would have then driven along Highway 2 in Shubenacadie, N.S., where Bezanson said he came across the spot where the gunman in his mock cruiser and authentic uniform killed RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson.
Bezanson said Webber likely would have stopped upon seeing what appeared to be a police officer on the road carrying a firearm.
Webber was shot and killed in the area, Bezanson said.
‘I started tearing up’
Bezanson said there’s been so many thoughts going around his head since he found out on Monday Webber was a victim. He said it could have just as easily been his own sons who live in the area, or himself.
“I don’t know whether [it] didn’t really sink in, but I was eating my lunch yesterday and I started tearing up. I mean, thinking, like, ‘I’ve known this boy since he was just a little child, three or four years old,'” Bezanson said, with a catch in his voice.
“You would never expect stuff like this to happen, let alone be one isolated person from this community to be out there and get shot. It’s just tragic. It’s a senseless act, and it doesn’t make sense and it never will.”
For a tight-knit community like theirs, as well as the other rural areas affected by the shooting, Bezanson said the only word is “traumatized.”
Wyses Corner is still grieving their last tragedy, Bezanson said, with the horrific case of Codey Hennigar. Hennigar killed his mother and grandparents before setting fire to their home in January 2015, which was just a few doors down from Webber’s home.
Procession planned for Saturday
Since the family won’t be able to have a large funeral due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bezanson has organized a procession of cars to line up at the entrance of Dollar Lake Provincial Park on Saturday at 1 p.m. AT.
The pace car from Scotia Speedworld is set to lead the group, Bezanson said, a fitting tribute given Webber’s passion for stock car racing, which he took part in around the early 2000s.
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