from the Chronicle-Journal...
More than 900 mourners alternatively wept and chuckled over precious memories Wednesday at Marathon’s hockey arena, as three young hockey players were sent on to the “spirit world” to the sound of traditional native drumming and singing.
Family members and friends of Pic River First Nation residents Jaret LeClair, 20, Jordan Nabigon, 22, and 17-year-old Kody Nabigon poured into the arena where all three young men had played as youngsters.
The three friends died on the night of Oct. 7 when the car they were travelling in collided with a pickup truck on the outskirts of the Pic River reserve. Police said earlier no charges will be laid.
Also killed in the crash was 36-year-old Greg Nabigon, a father of four children.
The Nabigons were related, but were not brothers.
A separate memorial service for Greg Nabigon is to take place Saturday at noon at Pic River’s community centre.
Marathon’s arena is built to hold up to 800 people, but can go to a maximum of 950 as long as firefighting crews are present. That was done Wednesday.
At the service, Rev. Milton McWatch briefly referred to the crash, noting that “the gospel is full of darkness and evil, but is also full of hope and light.”
“These men have done nothing wrong,” McWatch declared.
As dignitaries like Pic River Chief Roy Michano and Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle looked on, along with junior hockey players wearing team jerseys, those grieving in the quiet, packed arena were comforted by quotes from scripture and native spirituality.
“Always we are reminded that we are in a circle of life,” aboriginal spiritual leader David Courchesne said as the aroma of burning sweet grass lingered in the air. “There is joy when life begins, and it is also joyful when we return to the spirit world.”
With the three caskets assembled in front of the mourners, eulogies were delivered with humour and deep sorrow.
Barry Desmoulin recalled how his nephew, Kody Nabigon, would play hide-and-seek with his young son.
“Kody was a big kid with a big heart,” Desmoulin said. “His (hockey) coach called him Moses, because when he wound up for a slap shot a sea of players parted.”
“Live life as Kody did — with jokes and smiles,” added Desmoulin, breaking down and adding, “I’ll love you forever,” as he returned to his seat.
Fellow Superior Eagles hockey player Dallas Allaire choked up as he read his tribute to LeClair, a softie who was a tough customer on the ice.
“Jaret was my best friend,” Allaire said. “We sat together on the bus and we were roommates on the road. When we were playing, I always felt protected out there because Jaret was the guy nobody messed with.”
When Allaire stepped down, he was embraced by Jaret’s father, Byron LeClair.
Friends told how Jordan Nabigon didn’t like hockey as a tyke, but grew to love the game that “shaped his life.”
The gathering heard from a letter written by Jordan’s mother.
“I always remember his way (as a tot) of hugging and kissing everyone he saw,” said his mother, who in the letter recalled when Jordan’s younger sister was born.
“I can still see the look of awe and love when (Jordan) met her for the first time,” she said.
The letter concluded with a message for Jordan’s sister: “Talk to him, in your time of need. He’ll always be there for you, with his hand on your shoulder.”
Michano spoke of how the news of the crash “shook our community.”
“When I got the call, I couldn’t believe it, and at first I was angry,” Michano said.
“But as time went on, and I saw all the sacred fires in our community, I knew that the spirit was with us.”
Gazing out at the huge gathering, Michano remarked how the tragedy and the service had enjoined Pic River and Marathon.
“It’s brought our communities together,” he said.
As the service neared the end, a young aboriginal man sang a traditional Ojibwa hymn that seemed to echo the earlier words of Courchesne:
“We will wish them a good journey as they make their way back to the Creator.”