A time to heal

Ed­mund Aunger vis­its P.E.I. for first time since a drunk driver killed his wife, El­iz­a­beth So­vis, in 2012, shar­ing his late wife’s de­sire to cre­ate a safer Trans-Canada Trail

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN ROSS Ryan.ross@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/ryan­r­ross

Ed­mund Aunger sits out­side the Chez Shea Kinkora Coun­try Inn on Thurs­day dur­ing his first visit to P.E.I. since his wife, El­iz­a­beth So­vis, was killed by a drunk driver while the cou­ple was cy­cling near Hunter River in 2012. The Guardian’s Ryan Ross spoke with Aunger and at­tended a memo­rial ser­vice for So­vis held Fri­day.

Ed­mund Aunger is hop­ing for clo­sure. For the first time since a drunk driver killed his wife while the cou­ple was cy­cling near Hunter River five years ago, Aunger has made the trip back to P.E.I.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view with The Guardian, he talked about cy­cling to places across the coun­try he vis­ited with his wife, El­iz­a­beth So­vis.

As he sat in a wicker rock­ing chair on an inn’s porch in Kinkora, Aunger paused as he talked about work­ing through his emo­tions dur­ing those trips that even­tu­ally led him back to P.E.I.

“I’ve been heal­ing and I’m very happy to be back,” he said.

Aunger and So­vis came to P.E.I. from Al­berta in 2012 for a cy­cling trip that was meant to see them stay on the Con­fed­er­a­tion Trail.

She died af­ter a drunk driver hit her on July 14 while the two were cy­cling along a road near Hunter River on their way to a bed and break­fast.

So­vis was 63.

Talk­ing about So­vis, Aunger re­mem­bered her as a tal­ented, bril­liant, lov­ing woman who was ded­i­cated with a sense of so­cial jus­tice.

“She was an ex­cep­tional woman,” he said. That ded­i­ca­tion in­cluded set­ting up the French lan­guage speech pathol­ogy pro­gram in Al­berta.

“She had just a huge im­pact on chil­dren,” Aunger said.

Although Aunger was an avid cy­clist, he said So­vis didn’t take it up un­til she was around 50 years old.

When she did, her one con­di­tion was that she wouldn’t ride on roads be­cause it was too dan­ger­ous.

It was a con­di­tion Aunger said she stuck with over the years, in­clud­ing can­celling a trip to Man­i­toba be­cause they couldn’t ride on the Trans-Canada Trail the whole time.

Dur­ing the cou­ple’s trip to P.E.I., they took the train from Monc­ton to Sackville when So­vis dis­cov­ered the Trans-Canada Trail was on a road.

Aunger said they didn’t re­al­ize they would have to leave the trail in Hunter River to reach their ac­com­mo­da­tions for the night, and So­vis wouldn’t have made the trip if she had known.

The cou­ple was 2.9 kilo­me­tres down the road from where they left the trail when Clarence Arnold Moase hit So­vis with his van, throw­ing her 150 feet and sev­er­ing her brain stem.

“We never even made it to our B&B,” Aunger said.

Although Aunger said his first re­ac­tion af­ter his wife’s death was that the road wasn’t safe, he now sees it as an in­fras­truc­ture prob­lem be­cause if they had been able to stay on the trail she wouldn’t have died.

Be­fore she died, So­vis’s re­tire­ment plan was to work on mak­ing the Trans-Canada Trail safer.

She didn’t make it to re­tire­ment, and Aunger said he wanted to take up her project.

As part of that work, Aunger started a pe­ti­tion ask­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to adopt a Trans-Canada Trail Act that would es­tab­lish min­i­mum safety and qual­ity stan­dards.

Aunger said he thinks it’s shame­ful to hear peo­ple boast of the grand Trans-Canada Trail net­work when a lot of it in­cludes travel on roads and parts of it are not safe.

“That’s dis­hon­est and it’s a dis­hon­esty that can lead to tragedy,” he said.

While in P.E.I. Aunger held a memo­rial ser­vice for So­vis in Hunter River on Fri­day with about 100 peo­ple at­tend­ing.

Aunger had with him the bike he was rid­ing the day So­vis died.

It was the twin of her bike, but it has since been painted white to be­come a “ghost bike,” which is used as a memo­rial to a cy­clist who died. He rode the ghost bike from the church in Hunter River to the site where his wife died and where it will stay un­til the prop­erty own­ers de­cide to re­move it.

Although he was look­ing for clo­sure for him­self dur­ing his visit to P.E.I., Aunger said he hopes the memo­rial ser­vice will bring a kind of clo­sure for Is­lan­ders, too.

“I hope this is a time for us all to heal.”

RYAN ROSS/THE GUARDIAN

RYAN ROSS/THE GUARDIAN

Ed­mund Aunger places a wreath on the bike he was rid­ing the day his wife, El­iz­a­beth So­vis, was killed by a drunk driver dur­ing a cy­cling trip in P.E.I. in 2012. Aunger held a memo­rial ser­vice in Hunter River on Fri­day to mark the five-year an­niver­sary of his wife’s death. About 100 peo­ple at­tended a ser­vice at Cen­tral Queens United Church in Hunter River be­fore a pro­ces­sion that in­cluded cy­clists made their way to the place where she died sev­eral kilo­me­tres away on Route 13. Aunger left his bike, which was painted white and called a ghost bike, be­hind as a memo­rial to So­vis.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

El­iz­a­beth Ann So­vis and her hus­band, Ed­mund Aunger, are shown on a bi­cy­cling va­ca­tion in P.E.I. on July 13, 2012. So­vis was hit by a ve­hi­cle and killed the next day.

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