From a laptop perched lop-sided on a camping chair, Beckie Dyer’s favourite songs stream into the parking lot of the Ramada Inn, mixing with the din of traffic.
Her mother Debbie is busy pinning delicate green and purple butterflies on jackets, as friends and family fill an area a few feet from where Beckie and her boyfriend Johnny De Oliveira were killed in Pitt Meadows a year ago Wednesday.
Johnny’s mom Audrey carefully tends a memorial to the couple, It is filled with photographs, flowers, poems, Portuguese and German flags. The memorial is creeping higher and higher on the hydro pole.
It’s been a difficult day for both mothers.
“A year has gone by, but it just seems like yesterday,” says Debbie, as Audrey nods in agreement.
She still hears stories about Johnny from his friends, still learning new things about her son.
“Johnny was the same nature as Beckie, he was just quiet,” says Debbie, while Audrey lists off her son’s favourite activities – snowboarding, or “shredding pow”, off-roading and playing on his XBox.
Beckie, 19, and Johnny, 21, died around midnight Oct. 19, 2010, when a Toyota Paseo heading east on Lougheed Highway skidded sideways over a concrete median near Harris Road. The Toyota flipped over and slammed into the roof of the Suzuki Swift that Beckie and Johnny were traveling in.
Beckie and a friend had just been picked up by her boyfriend from a sold-out Justin Bieber concert in Vancouver. They were returning home to Pitt Meadows after dropping off Beckie’s friend in Maple Ridge. They were just two blocks away from the apartment they shared with her mom, Debbie.
Beckie was a girl who’d run out to help a friend without delay, who volunteered countless hours for the Variety Club, the Network for Animals and Ridge Meadows Hospital, who’d take in strays like her kitten Willow.
Johnny was the kind of guy who’d drop everything to help his beloved Beckie. He fixed her grandpa’s wheel chair, then went on to fix several others in the care home.
Audrey and Debbie are now using their grief to influence change. To them, it’s a way to pay homage to their children – two souls whose clearly had touched many people.
Those people – their family and friends – a crowd totalling more than 50, huddled in the parking lot to remember them, some crying as purple and lime-green balloons drifted up into the sky.
The mothers have joined others who have lost their children in lobbying for a Wrongful Death Act and mandatory minimum sentences for drivers involved in fatal crashes. Debbie has written to the B.C. premier, solicitor general, as well as federal ministers, pleading for change.
“We also want to be able to help others,” says Audrey.
If Beckie thought something was wrong, she would fight to change it, added Debbie.
Beckie’s aunt, Jackie Goolevitch, beams with pride when she looks at the crowd gathered to remember her niece.
“She did more in her short life to better this world than most adults,” she says.
Andelina Kristina Hecimovic faces two counts of dangerous driving causing death in connection with the crash that killed Beckie and Johnny.
Investigators allege Hecimovic, then 23, was driving aggressively when she crashed.
She has pleaded not guilty and will be tried next year by judge and jury.
• To sign a petition calling for a Wrongful Death Act, click here.
• CHEK TV will screen last year’s Miss Teen pageant on Nov. 2 at @ p.m. where the Beckie Dyer Community Spirit Award was handed out for the first time to a contestant who emulated the late 19-year-old.