'Hard to believe it': Friends mourn Yukon bear attack victims

Valérie Thé​orêt and her 10-month-old daughter Adele were killed Monday by a grizzly at their remote trapping cabin.

Valérie Thé​orêt and her 10-month-old daughter were killed by grizzly on Monday, at remote trapping cabin

Valérie Thé​orêt 'will be remembered as a woman so strong and positive and loving and generous and respectful,' a friend says. Thé​orêt and her infant daughter were mauled by a grizzly bear on Monday. (Facebook/Valerie Theoret)

Friends are remembering Valérie Théorêt​ as a strong and dynamic woman, a nature-lover, and a pillar of Yukon's francophone community.

The 37-year-old was killed by a grizzly bear on Monday, along with her 10-month-old daughter Adele Roesholt. The two were alone at their remote trapping cabin at the time. The baby's father, Gjermund Roesholt, found their bodies — and shot the bear dead — when he returned from a day checking his trapline.

"It's so hard to believe it," said Madeleine Piuze, one of Théorêt's closest friends in Yukon. 

"She will be remembered as a woman so strong and positive and loving and generous and respectful — and respectful of nature, as well. Like, she was just a nature lover," she said.

"Just an amazing woman. The best friend ever."

'Just an amazing woman. The best friend ever,' said Madeleine Piuze. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

The family's cabin is northeast of Mayo, Yukon, near the N.W.T. border. Piuze says Gjermund Roesholt came home to Whitehorse on Tuesday, to be greeted by friends. She says they gathered Tuesday evening to grieve and offer support. 

"We feel so lucky that he was willing to come with us, and it made a big difference for us and probably for him too — to feel that we were all together," she said.

"He was just able to speak to the group about what he's been through — and about how they were happy, before, on the trapline, and how beautiful it was." 

Théorêt​, originally from Quebec, and Roesholt, originally from Norway, had their trapline for about three years, and harvested wolves, foxes, lynx and other animals. Théorêt​ would design and sell products made from the fur, while Roesholt also worked as a wilderness guide. 

They were spending several months at their trapline this fall, while Théorêt was on maternity leave from her job as a French immersion teacher in Whitehorse.

"It was the time of their life," Piuze said.

A tight-knit community

Thé​orêt was on maternity leave from her job as a teacher. The family was spending several months at their trapping cabin this fall, while she was off work. (Submitted by Josianne Gauthier)

Théorêt​ moved to Yukon more than a decade ago. She made a lot of friends in the years since, many of them through the territory's francophone association. 

Yukon's francophone community is tight-knit — there are only about 1,500 people in the territory who consider French their first language, and most live in Whitehorse. 

"[Théorêt​] was a young woman, full of energy, known across the community because she was involved in many things," said Isabelle Salesse, executive director of L'Association franco-yukonnaise (AFY).

"It's like a domino effect, and everybody is affected by this news."

Twelve years ago, Yukon's francophone community was devastated by another fatal bear attack. Jean-Franç​ois Pagé, 28, was mauled to death by a grizzly while staking mining claims near Ross River.

Salesse says Pagé — also remembered as a dynamic and adventurous spirit — is still missed. She believes the loss of Théorêt​ and baby Adele will have a similarly lasting impact.

"It involves a baby, and it involves someone who did so much good to the community and was so positive — it's just unthinkable," she said.

'Everybody is affected by this news,' said Isabelle Salesse, executive director of l'Association franco-yukonnaise. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

"What struck me was that [Théorêt​] was always smiling. She had this huge smile ... her baby was following the same way."

On Thursday, AFY will open its doors in Whitehorse to anyone who wants to be together, or may need support. The group has invited a registered psychotherapist to be on hand, from 2:30 to 9 p.m., for anyone who wants to talk. 

With files from Claudiane Samson


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