Young mother killed, along with 10-month-old daughter, by grizzly in Yukon ‘was full of love’

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Young mother killed, along with 10-month-old daughter, by grizzly in Yukon ‘was full of love’

Verena Koenig was settling down in Whitehorse in 2009 when a friend introduced her to Valé​rie Thé​orêt — the happiest person, Koenig would later recall, that she’d ever met. It didn’t take long for the two to become tight: they played guitar together, went to potlucks, skied and paddled and embarked on all kinds of other adventures in nature.

Koenig was new to the Yukon capital, and every friend she made in those early days in town — people, in some cases, whom she now considers family — she met through Valérie.

“She was full of love,” Koenig said. “Even (when) there were struggles and things that happened and obstacles, she would always be so positive — and she would always be there when you needed her.”

Thé​orêt, 37, and her 10-month-old daughter Adele Roesholt died when a grizzly bear attacked them outside a remote cabin deep in the Yukon wilderness. They had been living at the cabin near Einarson Lake, close to the border Yukon shares with the Northwest Territories, for the past three months with Thé​orêt’s partner and Adele’s father, Gjermund Roesholt, who found their bodies when he came home on Monday afternoon from an outing to check on the family’s trapline.

She would always be so positive

Before his horrifying discovery, Roesholt encountered the bear about 100 metres from the cabin. The animal began to charge towards him and he shot the bear dead, Yukon’s chief coroner confirmed. Moments later, he found the bodies of his wife and daughter lying just outside the cabin door.

Thé​orêt and Adele had likely been out for a walk sometime between 10 a.m. and Roesholt’s return from the trapline at 3 p.m., coroner Heather Jones said in a statement.

As the coroner’s office and the RCMP investigate the deaths, people who knew Thé​orêt are remembering her as a caring friend, an eager outdoorswoman and a devoted public school teacher.

Thé​orêt, who was from Quebec, was on maternity leave from her job teaching French immersion to Grade 6 students at Whitehorse Elementary School, CBC reported. Yukon’s Department of Education said in a statement that she was a “valued educator,” adding that it was making support services available to staff and students all over the territory.

“Our heartfelt condolences are with her family and friends and with the staff and the students who are grieving,” the department said. “This tragedy weighs heavy on our hearts as a community. In times like this, we’ll come together to honour her memory and support each other.”


Valérie Théorêt

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Remy Beaupre, a friend of Thé​orêt’s, told CBC that Thé​orêt and Roesholt purchased their trapline at Einarson Lake a few years ago and were able to visit the area with Adele for an extended period during Thé​orêt’s leave.

“Now was the opportunity for them to all go as a family,” Beaupre said.

Brian Melanson, a trapper who owns a cabin elsewhere in the Einarson Lake area, told CBC that Thé​orêt’s and Adele’s deaths would be shattering to people in Yukon’s trapping community.

“It’s going to hit home to everybody,” said Melanson. “You know, we go out there, all of us, we take our wives and our children, and we live out there.”

An expert in Montana told the Canadian Press that fatal grizzly bear attacks are unusual.

“It’s a very sad state of affairs — something that no one likes to see happen — and that’s why it’s important to understand what it was that was going on here,” said Chris Servheen, the former longtime grizzly bear recovery coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It would be valuable to try to understand why it happened, if that can be determined through a careful re-creation of the events.”

Verena Koenig, meanwhile, no longer lives in Whitehorse, but she planned to travel there on Thursday to mourn her friend.  When she thinks about Thé​orêt, she said, she’ll remember above all her spark, her love of nature and her beautiful blue eyes.

“When you think about it, it’s like a big nightmare, and you just never wake up from it. I really don’t know how we all are going to get through this,” Koenig said. “We just need to remember she’s such a beautiful human being, and Adele was an amazing little girl.”

Email: nfaris@postmedia.com | Twitter: @nickmfaris

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