Nathan Mortimer (left)

Nathan Mortimer (left)

Beautiful stone bench a tribute to Rayel MacDonald

A beautiful stone bench in a community garden now commemorates the tragic death of 20-year-old nursing student Rayel MacDonald.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a beautiful stone bench in a community garden now commemorates the tragic death of 20-year-old nursing student Rayel MacDonald.

Last Saturday Rayel’s family,  surrounded by friends and community members, gathered for a service at the site where she was killed while walking across Carson Drive with a group of friends in the early morning of April 22, 2012.

Her family unveiled a memorial bench created in Squamish by a mason named Moses.

The bench contains three seats. Each seat is engraved with messages. One from each of Rayel’s sisters, Rilla and Olivia. The third one has a line from a song.

Two large rocks, originally from the Squamish area, are anchored between the three seating slabs.

Family friend Dr. Doug Neufeld, who was MC for the event, said a year before Rayel’s death the students at Williams Lake Secondary School chose Memory Garden as the name for the garden.

After Rayel’s death, the food policy council, who had organized the garden, welcomed the MacDonalds and the memorial bench project with open arms.

“It was a perfect blending of time,” Neufeld said. “It gave us something to focus on for family and friends, and something to work on to remember Rayel.”

Support from the food policy council, the city, that owns the land, city staff and local contractors ensured completion of the project in time for the anniversary.

“There were also donations through the food policy council from family and the friends of Rayel and the TRU nursing group. The biggest contributor by far to the memorial is actually Penelope, Olivia’s pig,” Neufeld explained.

Through the Williams Lake 4H Show and Sale held in August, the sale and resale of Penelope generated thousands of dollars, he added.

Family, friends, and the RCMP also came out to do some work on the garden itself.

“I certainly encourage people in Rayel’s memory and other kids’ memories to come out and help to make it a success for our community.”

The location of the memorial bench strategically remembers Rayel.

“If you look around, that’s where Rayel was born, Jan. 7, 1992 at Cariboo Memorial Hospital. The memorial faces where Rayel was brought up in Big Lake.

“I didn’t believe Andrea when she said it faced Big Lake, but then when I thought about it realized when you drive to Big Lake you drive south and then up and back.


“It actually does.”

Williams Lake Secondary School is directly above, where Rayel went to school, made a lot of friends, played rugby on the fields, and graduated.

At the time of her death she had completed her second year of the nursing program at TRU and had done her clinical at the hospital.

“Part of the way I knew Rayel, aside from through my children, was watching her evolve as a nurse. I’d see her and bug her in the hospital. She was involved with patients I work with,” Neufeld said.

Sadly, he added, the spot marks the place where Rayel died.

“It’s a difficult one, but it brings everything together. It marks where she died, but also where she lived.”

“Hopefully this is the first of many events,” Neufeld said.

Future plans for the site include an archway to the entrance.

After MacDonald’s death, Martin William Gentles, then 27 years old, was charged with impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm. On June 27, 2012 the charges were stayed in Williams Lake Provincial Court pending further investigation.

Criminal Justice Branch spoksperson Neil MacKenzie confirmed the Crown is in the process of completing the charges assessment file.

“I cannot say when the process will be completed, but there has been some communication back and forth between the Crown and the RCMP about the case.”

Neufeld said when the court proceedings are over, there is a plan to put up a plaque.

“We need to protect her rights through the court process. She still has rights that persons are dealt with.”

He also encouraged the community to continue supporting the family.

“Don’t be afraid to talk about Rayel with them. They want you to,” he said.

MacDonald’s  friend and fellow nursing student Alysha Mullett was seriously injured at the scene, but said Saturday she’s recovering physically, has continued some nursing courses through correspondence, and will be taking a practicum soon.

The bench honours all young people who have died,  Neufeld told the crowd.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mayor Walt Cobb waves from atop a tractor as he turns onto Oliver Street in the Daybreak Rotary’s annual Stampede Parade. Patrick Davies photo.
Lack of funding, volunteers has Daybreak Rotary bowing out of Williams Lake Stampede parade

Club learned this week it won’t be receiving local government funding, for the second year in a row

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

Williams Lake’s Brock Hoyer films a segment of the newly-released The Way Home in the city of Revelstoke. (Ryen Dunford photo)
Brock Hoyer stars in new snowbike film: The Way Home

The film is completely free and was released on YouTube on Jan. 22, 2021

The body of Kenneth Seymour Michell was discovered Jan. 14, 2021, behind a Williams Lake business a day after he was released by a judge on conditions. (Photo submitted)
Family looks for answers after Indigenous man dies by suicide following release from custody

System does not care about Indigenous peoples, says First Nations Leadership Council

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Interior Health officially declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Creekside Landing in Vernon on Jan. 3, which was followed by the first death from the virus 10 days later. (Kaigo photo)
COVID outbreak over at Vernon care home

Creekside Landing cleared of coronavirus, despite additional death in last day

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read