Fam­ily re­mem­bered at ‘sec­ond back­yard’

East-end com­mu­nity gath­ers for day of fun in mem­ory of Christ­mas Eve fire vic­tims


Riverdale’s Withrow Park was busier than usual Sun­day as hun­dreds took part in a day of ac­tiv­i­ties to hon­our a lo­cal fam­ily killed af­ter their cot­tage caught fire Christ­mas Eve.

Ge­of­frey (Ge­off) Taber, 56, Jac­que­line (Jac­quie) Gard­ner, 47, and their sons Scott Taber, 15, and Andrew Taber,13, died in a blaze that de­stroyed their Stoney Lake-area cot­tage last year.

The loss is still painful, long­time friend Ron Den­nis said, but Sun­day’s event, dubbed “A Day at Withrow Park,” was meant to chan­nel the pos­i­tiv­ity the fam­ily brought to the neigh­bour­hood through their com­mu­nity and char­ity work. It was or­ga­nized by the not-for-profit Taber Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, which Den­nis helped es­tab­lish in the wake of the fa­tal fire.

“We’ve had the som­bre event,” Den­nis said, re­fer­ring to a me­mo­rial ser­vice held back in Jan­uary. “To­day is a cel­e­bra­tion of life in our com­mu­nity . . . We wanted to in­vite ev­ery­one — friends, fam­ily, neigh­bours, the whole com­mu­nity — to have a day and we chose events and ac­tiv­i­ties that the Tabers loved to do.”

Among the ac­tiv­i­ties were bike rides, runs, a group dog walk and a chil­dren’s bike ob­sta­cle course; there were also per­for­mances by lo­cal mu­si­cians, a beer gar­den and food sta­tions set up by the Taber fam­ily’s favourite restau­rants.

“Sit­ting in the af­ter­noon with nice food and a nice drink and lis­ten­ing to great mu­sic (were) also some­thing that the Tabers loved, and we wanted to en­joy that with the whole com­mu­nity to­day,” Den­nis said.

The foun­da­tion was also col­lect­ing do­na­tions to help up­grade the park’s ball hockey rink, where the Taber fam­ily was a reg­u­lar pres­ence. Ge­off was an en­thu­si­as­tic spon­sor and coach for the lo­cal chil­dren’s league, and both sons played on lo­cal teams.

Kyle Cordy,14, said he played on the same team as Andrew, which Ge­off also coached, and came to the event to show his re­spect to the fam­ily.

“(Andrew) was funny and quiet and he was re­ally good at hockey. He had a lot of skill and po­ten­tial,” Cordy re­called. “He was re­ally pas­sion­ate about hockey.”

An­other of Andrew’s ball hockey team­mates, 14-year-old Aton Jakob­sen, re­mem­bered the Taber fam­ily’s kind­ness. “They were just re­ally nice peo­ple. They al­ways had the whole team over, giv­ing extra money to help with some­thing, Ge­off would al­ways buy us shirts and stuff for the team, just re­ally friendly peo­ple,” Jakob­sen said.

That was a sen­ti­ment shared by neigh­bour­hood res­i­dent Caro­line Bouf­fard, who said she met the Taber fam­ily when her youngest son started play­ing ball hockey.

“The first year we joined the team, we didn’t know any­one and right away they em­braced our fam­ily — in­cluded us in ac­tiv­i­ties, made us feel at home, made us feel part of the team right away,” Bouf­fard re­called as she waited for her son to com­plete the 5-kilo­me­tre chil­dren’s run.

She said it was im­por­tant for her to come out Sun­day “to cel­e­brate life.”

“It sounds corny, but that’s what you do when a tragedy like this hap­pens — you cel­e­brate life, you get to­gether and you rem­i­nisce . . . And for our kid, who knew Andrew, es­pe­cially, I think it’s im­por­tant for him be­cause it helps with clo­sure,” Bouf­fard said.

“The Tabers were al­ways hang­ing around this park,” she added. “Withrow was like their sec­ond back­yard.”


Friends, neigh­bours and fam­ily vol­un­teered in mem­ory of the Taber fam­ily on a day of ac­tiv­i­ties at Withrow Park.

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