It’s been five years since the death of a prominent young Saltair woman with a great future ahead of her shocked the community.
Paige Whitelaw was well-known, respected and loved. That was reflected in the huge turnout at the Chemainus Secondary School gymnasium for her memorial service on March 19, 2016.
Whitelaw was just 20 when she died in an accident near Vernon on March 6, 2016, along with good friend Carlee De Boer. They were passengers in a pick-up truck driven by Travis Fox of Enderby, who survived the crash and was eventually sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
There were two other passengers in the vehicle. Fox failed to negotiate a curve and the truck went off Highway 6 and flipped in a ditch.
On the anniversary date, friends and family reflected on the impact Paige made of their lives.
“There hasn’t been a single day or time that Paige hasn’t been on my mind,” noted Emily Adams. “Everything I have done since, has been for her. She is my motivation and inspiration. My very best friend. I feel so lucky to have been a part of her life and that she will forever be a part of mine. Days aren’t easy knowing she isn’t around, but her memories keep me going.
“I will always miss the nights we would spend eating five cent candies and baking up a storm in her kitchen, but most of all, I just miss being around her,” she added. “I miss telling her about my day, big or small she was always there for me. To get mad at me, to laugh with me, to support me, to cry with me. There is so much to tell her, but I know she’s somewhere looking out for me.”
Adams was grateful for the support from Paige’s parents Nadine and Ernie and their other daughter Nicole.
“I don’t know what I would have done without them,” conceded Adams. “I am thankful for them everyday. That day does not feel like five years ago. But at the same time, it feels like 100 years without her.”
Regular tributes to Paige include the Paige Whitelaw Memorial Bursary, with $2,000 given out each year to students in Chemainus and Duncan who fit the criteria. She’s also been remembered through the Cowichan Valley Memorial Midget C hockey tournament that brings together families from the region affected by similar tragedies.
The tournament unfortunately did not take place last year due to COVID and remains in limbo for 2021 depending on the orders of public health officials.
A bench in memory of Paige is situated at Sproat Lake in Port Alberni where family and friends spent considerable vacation time.
Paige was a gifted athlete, with a passion for hockey. She was a youth volunteer at the Chemainus Health Care Centre and also volunteered her time at other places around the community.
At the time of the accident, Paige was in her final year at Okanagan College in Kelowna and was looking forward to starting a career as a therapist assistant.
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