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
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.”
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.
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.