2014: a year of highs and lows

From Tragedies To Heartwarming Stories, This Is A Year To Remember

What a year it was. From the good news to the bad, we take a look back at some of the big stories of 2014. Check out our next edition, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, to read Part 2.

JANUARY The look of relief on Dan Reaveley's face outside of Courtroom 209 in New Westminster likely said it all.

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Just moments earlier, on the afternoon of Jan. 3, the Coquitlam father of four heard from a judge what he had been waiting on for nearly three years.

Cory Sater, the man behind the wheel of a truck that mowed down his wife and two others, was guilty of a crime.

Sater was found guilty of six charges, including impaired driving causing death and bodily harm and dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm.

"It's nice to know there is a little bit of accountability," he told the media outside the New Westminster law courts. "The biggest thing for me is setting a precedence for people who go jump in the car after they drink, so it definitely sets a stage for people coming up."

Sater originally faced 10 charges related to the crash on Feb. 19, 2011 that killed Charlene Reaveley and Lorraine Cruz on the side of Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam.

A third person, Cruz's boyfriend Paulo Calimbahin, was seriously injured.

At the end of his trial in October, Sater pled guilty to a charge of hit and run.

The Crown, due to a lack of evidence, dropped three charges related to Sater's blood-alcohol level.

Prior to the incident, Cruz had been driving with her boyfriend in a Nissan Pathfinder just before 12:30 a.m., when the vehicle crashed near Lougheed Highway and Pitt River Road.

The two got out of the car, while the Reaveleys and two friends stopped to help. As the group stood outside the Nissan, a white Jeep Cherokee ran down both women.

Reaveley and Cruz were killed instantly, while Calimbahin was seriously injured.

In his reasons, Supreme Court Justice James Williams accepted the testimony of several of the Crown's witnesses during the trial, including four employees at the Lougheed Village Bar Grill where Sater drank with a cousin and an acquaintance before the incident.

The 13-day trial, which took place in October 2013, included at times emotional testimony from witnesses at the scene of the crash, including a 911 tape played in court that recorded the moment of impact.

In all, the Crown called 31 witnesses and experts during the trial, while the defence called none. Sater was sentenced to nine years in jail, reduced to 7.5 for time served.

FEBRUARY Every pet owner has had that moment. Crouching down among a group of puppies or kittens, watching their little tails wagging as they swarm your feet, tumbling over your toes and each other for the small chance you'll give them some food and a hug.

Just like that, you're in the car driving home with a new best friend.

Coquitlam's Riina Cooke knows that moment. She had it when she first met her "baby," a boxer pup named Romeo, more than eight years ago.

Since then she's never been apart from her

four-legged friend, but soon she'll have to be.

"He had a slight limp on his left hind leg in October," Cooke told the Tri-Cities NOW.

"He went in for another operation, and I asked while he was under if they could X-ray his hips and knees, and then when they did that they found he had a tumor inside his femur bone."

The diagnosis was osteosarcoma, one of the most painful cancers - it starts in the bones and, as time goes on the tumor grows, essentially bursting the leg from the inside out. To treat this kind of cancer, the vets say they have to amputate, but due to Romeo's age and underlying medical conditions, he wouldn't survive the procedure.

In a matter of seconds, Cooke went from thinking her dog had some arthritis to hearing she was going to lose her best friend of eight years.

She was shattered. "I spent a couple of days in bed depressed. He's my baby," Cooke said. "Then one day I looked at him and thought, 'I'm not going to cry anymore. I'm going to make every day count.'" Instead of being down during her dog's final days, Cooke decided to step up and treat her friend to the finer things in life.

She made Romeo a bucket list: Romeo met Bif Naked, rode inside fire trucks and police cars, had a steak dinner at Lafarge Lake made special by The Keg, went on "doggy dates" with other boxers, ate a classic McDonald's cheeseburger and went to the Coquitlam Animal Shelter to donate some money.

Romeo died in mid March.

MARCH Brave. That's the word used to describe Mary Steinhauser, who was killed during a botched hostage taking at the old B.C. Penitentiary in New Westminster in 1975.

On March 29 at the Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam, an event aptly titled Brave: The Mary Steinhauser Legacy celebrated the former nurse and social worker's life and accomplishments.

Steinhauser's younger sister Margaret Franz, who had been working on the event

for more than a year, described it as a night of "history and hope."

"The evening, although it touches on sad and tragic events, it moves into the future to inspire others and to continue into her very brave path of speaking out," Franz told the Tri-Cities NOW. "I felt her incredible bravery and sacrifice needed to be told again."

Steinhauser, 32, was killed on June 11, 1975. In the early 1960s, she trained as a nurse for two years at Essondale Hospital, or Riverview as it later became known, making stops at various institutions before landing at the B.C. Pen in the 1970s.

An advocate for prison reform and social justice, she was one of 15 classification officers - or parole officers as they're now known - held hostage in an old vault by three men: Claire Wilson, Dwight Lucas and Andy Bruce.

In an act of selfless bravery, the social worker, who was well liked by inmates, offered herself up as the principal hostage. Along with one of her captors, she was shot by guards, bringing the 41-hour ordeal to an end.

The memorial evening featured the aboriginal group Dancers of Damelahamid, as well as a series of spoken word performances from people who were a part of Steinhauser's life or inspired by her actions, including Dennis Neveu, a former inmate on her case load.

Event director Karen Freeborn said she was inspired to get involved after learning of Steinhauser's story from former inmate Neveu.

"Through his eyes, I witnessed Mary's bravery as she forged ahead to incorporate a new model of rehabilitation in the penitentiary system," Freeborn wrote in an e-mail.

"I felt the power of her brave resolve to fight for social justice and human rights within this new model, and against fierce opposition. I observed, through this man, the great love and respect that he and so many other inmates had for Mary, in an era when incarceration was synonymous with severe and unusual punishment; and I felt the sting of tears the inmates shed when they lost her."

Proceeds from the event go towards the Mary Steinhauser Memorial Bursary for aboriginal undergrads studying humanities at SFU.

APRIL

Middle school cafeterias, librarians and school bus services are among the areas hardest hit in the School 43 budget, as trustees and staff grapple with a $13.4-million operating shortfall for the 2014-15 school year.

The list of cuts is massive and runs deep across the district. The resulting loss of fulltime positions includes: 91 teaching positions, including psychologists, speech language pathologists, high incidence teachers, librarians and student services coordinators, counsellors and teachers working to maintain class size and composition

55 support staff positions, including noonhour supervisors and maintenance positions 33.5 educational support positions, including teaching assistants, youth workers and library clerks two administrator positions Once part-time positions are taken into account, the numbers are even higher. Middle school cafeteria programs and busing services are eliminated alongside the teaching positions.

A breakdown of the numbers shows the cuts in relation to anticipated savings: 103 teachers (just under $8 million), 22 support staff ($905,000), 33 educational assistants ($1.1 million) and four administrators ($525,000).

The district attributes the majority of its budget shortfall to inflation and provincial funding cuts.

"I think the nine of us make wonderful scapegoats ... the province needs us in our place to buffer them from criticism," former Trustee Brian Robinson said. "And we're really wearing it right now."

Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Charley King says the budget cuts are "going to create an awful lot of chaos."

He also accuses senior district staff of not being forthright in the budget with plans to hire three managers.

"I think it's a real slap in the face to our members that the district leadership is proposing cutting over 100 teachers and at the same time adding three new management positions and a principal in charge of international education," he says.

The final budget is approved in early May - a month and a half before the B.C.-wide teachers' strike begins.

MAY The Coquitlam Express's dream season comes to an end at the Western Canada Cup tournament in Dauphin, Man.

Having advanced to the western finals after toppling the heavily-favoured Vernon Vipers in the Fred Page Cup final, the Express run out of steam in the team's final loss in Manitoba, falling 5-3 to the Spruce Grove Saints.

As disappointing as the loss is, the season is a success in so many ways.

"Obviously it hasn't completely sunken in on what we accomplished, as the loss is still fresh in our minds," captain Ryan Rosenthal said at the time. "What I take away from this is just how extremely proud of everyone on this team I am, and how much we achieved over the year."

The ninth-seeded team at the start of the B.C. Hockey League (BCHL) playoffs, the Express stick to an incredible storyline, coming from behind in each game en route to claiming the B.C. crown and a berth to the Western Canada Cup championships. "I've never seen a team so resilient and persevere through so much," remarked Fred Page Cup Game 4 scoring hero Adam Rockwood. "It's definitely the most special group of guys I've ever played with - I can't say enough. When we get down, in no way do we panic."

Led by two newcomers - Rosenthal and netminder Gordy Defiel - Coquitlam usurps the B.C. Hockey League's top clubs on its way to the western championships. As a franchise, the Burnaby Express relocated from Coquitlam at the start of the 2005- 06 season and returned in 2010. While in Burnaby, the Express won the Royal Bank Cup - the national junior championship title - in their first year after moving.

JUNE

There aren't many people who can legitimately say they took part in an event that changed the course of history. But you can count John "Doc" Cumbers and George Thayer as members of that exclusive group.

The two Coquitlam residents are D-Day veterans who take part in a memorial luncheon at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 263 Coquitlam to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Both men speak to the Tri-Cities NOW in advance of the event, and recall their roles on that fateful day.

A naval engineer, Thayer was aboard a mid-sized landing craft charged with dropping off about 200 troops on the beaches of Normandy, France.

Thayer remembers the vessel remaining relatively unscathed as the troops charged off the ship and onto Juno Beach. However, the boat shifted and listed after the mass exit, causing it to rock and sway almost uncontrollably. The motors were off, which further destabilized the craft, and the boat swung directly into a German explosive placed in the water near the landing zone.

"When we touched that shell, it blew a five- and-a-half-foot hole in the mid-ship," Thayer said. "In about 20 minutes, she was sitting sunk on the beach."

For Cumbers, his job was to provide safe passage to those like Thayer, who were in the landing crafts, ships and other vessels. Cumbers was a tail gunner with the Royal Canadian Air Force and was called into duty one day before the massive invasion on the French coastal town.

"We flew a mission the night of [June 5], because D-Day was supposed to be on the fifth," he recalled. "So we bombed the rail yards and then we came back and they told us, 'OK, you guys did your job, so take some time off and go to London.' And that's what I did."

Cumbers' extensive career in the Armed Forces also saw him serve in the Royal Canadian Navy once the Second World War ended. He then settled into a career as a firefighter in Vancouver before moving to Coquitlam in the late 1970s.

Every year, June 6 offers him a chance to reflect. "It brings back memories," said Cumbers, 88. "Our crew became a team and the team worked well together. We did our job. We got shot at and we shot at them. We dropped bombs on them. It was a different type of life for us."

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