Standing by a makeshift memorial in the heart of a northern Nova Scotia town, Nellie Lloy reminisced about a summer spent on her secluded property, chopping down trees and planting flowers with her niece’s family .
They had placed a trailer on the land in Millvale, Nova Scotia, and it was blossoming into a family getaway nestled in the woods of rural Nova Scotia.
But last weekend it was the site of a tragedy that many are struggling to come to terms with.
The bodies of six people – including four children – were discovered on Sunday evening following a fire in the caravan.
Family members identified the victims as RJ Sears, 30; Michelle Robertson, 28; and their children Madison, 11; Ryder, 8; and CJ, 3; and Robertson’s son, Jaxson, 4.
The family was originally from Amherst, Nova Scotia, a town just outside the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border.
On Monday, a large photograph of the family was placed in a gazebo in the city’s Victoria Park as part of a tribute.
By Tuesday afternoon, the memorial had grown to include dozens of flowers, stuffed animals and several Montreal Canadiens jerseys.
Family and community members had gathered in the park for comfort on Tuesday.
Lloyd, Robertson’s aunt, described her niece as a devoted parent who, along with her partner, brought joy to their children’s lives.
“Michelle was born special and her whole purpose in life was just to be a better person,” Lloy said. “I think the only word I could use to describe Michelle was ‘grace’.”
Lloy said she owned the property where the fire started in Millvale, a small community in Cumberland County, about 50 kilometers southeast of Amherst. The family was staying in a travel trailer there for the weekend.
“We spent the summer…cleaning the earth from the rain, the sun, the mosquitoes and the black flies. These children dug holes and we planted dozens and dozens of plants. This was to become our family garden “Lloy said.
“Kids painted rocks. We had so many magical times on this property as a family.”
She said CJ had just turned three about a week ago and the family had gone camping to celebrate his birthday because Robertson had worked the previous weekend.
Lloyd said Robertson and Sears grew up together.
“I still think of them as the little family that could,” she said, adding that Robertson had recently started working after being a stay-at-home mom, and that made her happy.
“They were just in the best place of their lives right now.”
Lloyd said 11-year-old Madison was involved in sports and had many friends. She said eight-year-old Ryder was kind and had a depth to his heart beyond his years. Four-year-old Jaxson was a lively boy nicknamed “Action Jaxson.” And CJ was born “too smart” and didn’t miss a beat in the busy family.
Amherst Mayor David Kogon said the community was shocked by the news and there was an overwhelming sense of sadness.
“People are just in shock and totally heartbroken,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“You don’t lose an entire family of six without each feeling their own personal reaction to that loss.”
Kogon said the town created the memorial in conjunction with Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin to give the family and community a space to grieve.
“It’s a place where people can gather, pay their respects, lay flowers or a teddy bear, to help them deal with the loss that every citizen feels,” Kogon said.
Smith-McCrossin said the community is coming together to rally around the family, including through several fundraisers.
“It’s heartbreaking to lose a child, and our community just lost four children and their young parents. Everyone feels that,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
Local school to offer supports
The Chignecto Central Regional Center for Education, the area’s school district, confirmed that three of the children were college students.
In a statement, a spokesperson said school psychologists were being made available at Cumberland North Academy and would also facilitate access to short-term counseling services and other community supports beyond the school level. .
Firefighters were called to Mountain Road in Millvale on Sunday around 6.30pm local time. Police said when they arrived, officers discovered the family’s bodies.
It took officers about half an hour to get to the scene, as they had to take old logging roads, Cpl said. said Chris Marshall. The fire was out when they arrived on the scene and there were no survivors.
The provincial fire marshal is still investigating the cause of the fire and the medical examiner’s office is working to determine the cause of death. But officials said the fire was not suspicious.
Lloy said, based on information she received, she believes the family died before the fire started.
“It brings us a lot of peace, knowing that they were together,” she said.