September 28, 2022
“MDS was such a big part of her life”
Volunteers in Monte Lake, B.C. pause for moment of silence in memory of Evelyn Greenwood, tragically killed in 2021
All was quiet on September 6 at 9 a.m. as Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers in Monte Lake, B.C. put down their tools and paused for a moment of silence.
They were doing it in memory of Evelyn Greenwood, a long-time volunteer with MDS, who was killed in a tragic accident exactly one year earlier.
They were also doing it in support of her husband, Kevin, who came to Monte Lake with his son, Ben, and son-in-law, Steve Billing, to honour Evelyn by doing something she enjoyed—helping others through MDS.
A “whoosh and a bang”
It was Labour Day in 2021 when Kevin and Evelyn, members of the Leamington, Ont. United Mennonite Church, were doing some yard work at their house.
“It was a hot and dry summer, and we were digging up the front lawn to plant new grass seed,” said Kevin.
He was busy using the rototiller so didn’t see a pick-up truck suddenly veer off the road at high speed and on to their lawn.
“I heard a whoosh and a huge bang,” he said as the truck sped behind him. It hurtled across the neighbour’s lawn before stopping when it hit a tree.
At first, his attention was drawn to the crash. He didn’t immediately realize that Evelyn—who was raking about three metres (nine feet) behind him—had been struck.
He only discovered her body when he ran to the truck to check on the driver.
He found her lying neighbour’s garden, about 36 metres (40 yards) away from where she had been hit by the truck. “She was dead. The bang I heard was her being hit.”
The cause of the crash is still unknown, and the case is still before the court. Evelyn was 69.
Serving as a way to honour Evelyn
In spring this year, when he looked forward to the anniversary of her death, Kevin, 67, decided he didn’t want to be home alone.
“Our three kids are grown and out of the house,” he said. “I didn’t want to be here by myself.”
He decided to serve with MDS in Monte Lake both as a way to keep busy during that time, but also to honour Evelyn.
“MDS was such a big part of her life,” said the retired elementary school teacher, noting they had served together with MDS nine times in places like Texas, West Virginia, South Carolina, Staten Island, Windsor and Ottawa.
“We liked to go serve and combine it with some vacation.”
When his son, Ben, who lives in Calgary, and son-in-law, Steve Billings, who lives in Elora, Ontario, heard his plan, they offered to come along.
“It was a great opportunity to support my dad and remember my mother by doing the kind of work she loved so much,” said Ben, 37, who had done MDS once before with his father.
“She loved MDS. It was a great way for her to help others.”
A hiking accident in the mountains a couple weeks before going didn’t deter him. “I took a tumble off a cliff and injured my ankle,” Ben said, noting he had to be airlifted to hospital. “But I was determined to go.”
Despite wearing a walking boot, he pitched in as best he could.
“I had my limitations, but felt supported by others,” he said. “I did more than I expected to.”
For Steve, 45, it was “a chance to honour her by being part of something Evelyn deeply believed in.”
Along the way to B.C., they spread Evelyn’s ashes in places she loved, like Lake Louise and Emerald Lake.
A moment of silence and reflection
When the three arrived in Monte Lake, they told Project Director Roman Heuft why they had come and asked about holding a moment of silence on September 6 at the exact moment—9 a.m. B.C. time, noon in Ontario—of her death a year earlier.
Roman quickly agreed.
“It was so inspiring to hear why they had come to serve,” he said, adding he was honoured “they were willing to include us in remembering Evelyn, and allowing us to support them.”
When the anniversary of the time of her death came, crews at all sites in Monte Lake paused for a moment of reflection.
At the house where Kevin, Ben and Steve were working, the volunteers formed a circle and held hands.
“I cried,” said Kevin of the time of silence and prayer. “It was really meaningful.”
“It made me feel closer to her,” said Ben. “I think she was smiling down on us as we did that.”
For Steve, it was “overwhelming and emotional.”
What struck Roman was how quiet everything was during that time; there was no traffic on the nearby highway, and even the chickens and rooster on the property where they were working were silent.
“It was perfect timing,” he said, adding cars started rolling by and dogs barked right after the time of silence ended. “If felt like God was with us.”
After the memorial, Kevin, Ben and Steve spread some of Evelyn’s ashes at the work site. Later, at supper with all the volunteers, they had a chance to tell their story.
“We sang and read Psalms,” said Kevin. “It was very calming and meaningful.”
For Roman, it was a very moving experience.
“It touched all of our hearts,” he said. “I’m glad we could be part of their journey of healing and recovery.”
As for Kevin, Ben and Steve, they are already talking about serving with MDS next year on the second anniversary of Evelyn’s death.
“It’s a way to keep giving back, as Evelyn would have wanted to do,” said Kevin.
John Longhurst, MDS Communications