Support pours out over teen’s death

The sudden and tragic death of a local teen here last Wednesday evening has led to an outpouring of support from the community.
An estimated 400 people came out for a brief memorial ceremony Monday evening that Fort Frances Youth Soccer held for Bryce Devoe, who was killed by lightning on one of the soccer pitches at the St. Francis Sportsfields.
A sound system was set up so FFYS teams and other members of the community could pay their respects to Devoe before the organization resumed games for the first time since his passing.
FFYS past president Rick Chambers made some brief remarks, coming close to tears near the end of the ceremony.
“Let’s play with a little bit of fun. Bryce would’ve wanted it . . .” he said, choking up.
A bell was tolled 13 times during a half-minute of silence—once for every year of the young teen’s life.
FFYS president Sarah Gould was pleased with the large turnout.
“There were quite a few community members who were not necessarily connected with soccer,” she noted. “That was nice. I’m glad Bryce’s family was here.”
Mourners had filled St. Mary’s Church for his funeral Saturday morning.
Devoe, a Grade 8 student at J.W. Walker School, was described by many as an avid athlete who especially had a passion for soccer, and had taken to both playing and refereeing the game.
Meanwhile, another public memorial has been set up near the entrance of the local Wal-Mart. Cash donations are being accepted to help the family through this difficult and financially trying time.
The store also has set up a sign-in book for the public to write messages of condolence, and it is accepting cards and other gifts for the family.
“To watch the community jump on board and support that has been incredible,” said Jason Sheppard, assistant manager at the local Wal-Mart.
He said employees throughout the store were moved Thursday morning after hearing of the teen’s death.
“Everybody was like, ‘We gotta do something,’” he recalled.
A woman who originally had a fundraising table ready for the spot near the entrance gave it up, not wanting to draw any attention away from the Devoe memorial, Sheppard noted.
He added other Wal-Mart stores throughout Northwestern Ontario have sent cash donations after hearing about the death.
No permanent memorial has been set up at J.W. Walker School, where Devoe would have graduated later this month, but principal Bill Daley insisted “there will be something.”
“We’re going to honour him at graduation, some way, somehow,” he pledged. “We will decide as a staff how best to honour his memory.”
Fort Frances OPP said Devoe was with a group of youths when he was struck by lightning around 6 p.m. last Wednesday.
He was rushed to La Verendrye Hospital but was pronounced dead by medical staff there.
Several other youths also were taken to hospital but no other serious injuries were reported.
The FFYS has a strict policy to cancel games in the face of thunderstorms.
While the boys had come to the fields for a youth soccer game, Fort Frances OPP Cst. Doug Irish noted in an interview last week that “soccer was cancelled quite a bit earlier than” 6 p.m. that night.