const. Heidi Stevenson commemorated at Caribbean retreat
In February 2020, Const. Heidi Stevenson was looking forward to spending a week in the sun on a white-sand Caribbean beach with her husband, two children and mother.
She had planned for her family to join close friend and colleague Cheryl Ponee of the Annapolis District RCMP for a fitness trip to Sanctuary at the Grand Memories Varadero complex in Cuba scheduled for late April 2020. Ponee, who is also a fitness instructor for several resorts in Cuba, organized the trip through her fitness company NRG2GO.
The family’s vacation plans never materialized. On the morning of April 19, 2020, Stevenson was killed in the line of duty while pursuing a lone gunman in the deadliest mass shooting in the province’s history that claimed the lives of 22 people. and an unborn child in Colchester and Hants counties.
Ponee canceled the event after Stevenson’s death. It could not be rescheduled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-related travel restrictions. But Ponee wondered if the planned fitness event could be revived to bring together grieving family, colleagues and friends in a relaxing tropical setting to commemorate Stevenson.
Last month, 71 family members, retired and serving with the RCMP from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia, joined friends of Stevenson at the same compound to Const. Fitness journey in memory of Heidi Stevenson. After two years of planning and delays, Ponee had organized a week of events, including daily beach and poolside workouts, gala dinners and live music and entertainment. It was an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxing environment and to share their sense of loss while remembering their deceased loved one and comrade.
For Ponee, it was about honoring and celebrating Stevenson’s courage and dedication to the RCMP. It was also a precious opportunity to honor their decades of friendship and shared service.
“Heidi and I crossed paths at Acadia University together in the early 90s. We had known each other for 24 years, we were both rookies at Cole Harbor on our first secondment out of depot,” Ponee shared on social media before leaving for Cuba to prepare for the memorial.
“Heidi then taught English in Japan, joined the Musical Ride, got married, had babies and we got together at Enfield Detachment before she lost her life to save others,” Ponee said.
“She has many close friends from countless years who are struggling today. There is a certain connection between the women of the RCMP that is hard to explain unless you are one. Heidi’s death deeply affected me. shaken and not a day goes by that I don’t think about what she did and what a hero she is.
“A hard worker”
“She was just a wonderful woman. A hard worker and a dedicated police officer. It’s very, very unfortunate what happened… the company has lost a wonderful person,” said the sergeant, a 30-year veteran of RCMP Angie Hawryluk, who served with Stevenson at Cole Harbor from 2013 to 2015, said in an interview after returning to Nova Scotia from Cuba.
Hawryluk said the memorial was an opportunity to share a sense of pride and camaraderie with fellow RCMP members. Especially his female colleagues.
“There is nothing easy about the job, whether you are a woman or a man. But there are additional stressors as a woman. A lot of us are moms,” Hawryluk said. “There is an understanding between us.”
During an interview after returning to Nova Scotia, Ponee said attendees gathered on the beach for a group photo wearing specially designed red tank tops that had the slogan “Nova Scotia Strong” along with the date of Stevenson’s death and his regimental number.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in this place,” Ponee said. “When everyone saw that sea of red heading towards the sand, I think it hit everyone. After the photo, people didn’t say anything. They just walked around, hugged and have cried.
“She was really looking forward to retiring so she could focus on her children. She had served 23 years when she was killed.
“I think it really touched everyone, but it was also very calming because it was something positive that showed how much she meant to her colleagues, friends and family that 71 people would come there to celebrate his life.”
Additionally, before a speech by Stevenson’s husband, Ponee presented a check to Stevenson’s children for $4,200. The donations came from a Mountie Monday Fitness Class online fundraising event hosted by Ponee via NRG2GO last year to support the children in their future endeavours.
“She was really looking forward to retiring so she could focus on her kids,” Ponee said. “She had served 23 years when she was killed.”
Pride and memory
Stevenson’s mother, Avon Brophy, said in an interview that the gathering was emotional for her.
“I remember telling my niece, who I was sitting next to, that the mood in the room was so wonderful. You could feel the love between everyone,” she said .
“I’m sure every one of them puts themselves in Heidi’s shoes. Every time they lose a limb, I’m sure they all think, “it could have been me”. They think of their own children without their mother or a parent,” Brophy said.
“It was extremely moving. I found it very healing. And I feel like I have a lot of new friends.
Brophy said she was proud of her daughter’s accomplishments. However, she remembers being shocked by a letter she received from her daughter while Brophy was visiting friends in Costa Rica.
“Well mom, I now know what I want to do for a career and you better sit down for it,” wrote Stevenson, who had worked part-time as a campus policeman while a student at Acadia. , in the letter.
“She said, ‘I want to join the RCMP,’” recalls Brophy.
Brophy said her daughter was also accepted into a master’s program in kinesiology. Stevenson had chosen his thesis supervisor and his field of study and set a deadline to choose between the two careers.
Brophy said Stevenson received the call informing him of his acceptance into the RCMP just days before the deadline. Stevenson was on a plane to Regina to begin her training days after being notified of her acceptance by the RCMP.
Not the last time
Ponee said it wouldn’t be the last const. Fitness journey in memory of Heidi Stevenson.
“I didn’t know if I was going to do it again. Or if it’s something the family would want me to do again,” Ponee said. “But the whole family approached me, especially their children, and asked me to do it again next year. I’m doing it again next year and I already have a waiting list of people.