Island students, teachers remember Josh and Oliver Underhay
When students and teachers returned to several P.E.I. schools today, they came together to support one another and to mourn the loss of teacher Josh Underhay and his son Oliver.
It was the first day of classes since the father and son died in a tragic canoeing accident on Good Friday.
Oliver was in Grade 1 at École François Buote in Charlottetown. Students and staff remembered Oliver, who they grew to know personally as Olivier, said Elizabeth Blake, the school's principal.
Sharing happy memories
"He was such a great lover of the French culture, the French community, as his dad Josh was, so … his name is Olivier, for us," Blake said.
Oliver's classmates spent the morning sharing happy memories of their friend, Blake said.
"Olivier loved to tell jokes, so one of the kids told a joke that Olivier had told him last week. He loved to dance the floss. All the kids were dancing the floss this morning. The kids have been fantastic about sharing the good memories," she said.
Youth workers and counsellors were at the school today to support staff and students, Blake said.
Reflecting on a legacy
Staff and students at Birchwood Intermediate, where Josh Underhay was a teacher, spent the day reflecting on his legacy at the school.
"He reached out and touched every staff member and student in this building. Everyone was well acquainted with him and very touched," said Patsy MacDonald, vice-principal at the school.
The Public Schools Branch, schools in the area and former staff have reached out to support students and staff at Birchwood, said MacDonald.
"It's just akin to having your family come home in a time of trouble. It feels like a larger extended family that are showing support," MacDonald said.
Message of support
Before students trickled in for the school day, staff at Birchwood were advised to offer a consistent message to students. That was to encourage students to express their feelings in the aftermath of tragedy and to know support is available, she said.
Support was in place at Birchwood Intermediate and also at Spring Park where Josh Underhay's wife Karri is a teacher.
Students have been very engaged in efforts to honour Josh Underhay's memory, MacDonald said.
"Pretty much every individual has rooted deep and they're coming up with green today. You can't help but feel that Mr. Underhay is still with us," MacDonald said.
Underhay was also a candidate for the Green Party in the provincial election. The election in that district has been postponed and will be decided in a byelection at a later date.
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With files from Steve Bruce