Saskatchewan

'He was my everything': Wife of chef who died from coronavirus variant remembers big man with big personality

Warren Montgomery died Tuesday morning after contracting coronavirus variant.

Warren Montgomery died Tuesday morning after contracting U.K. variant

Warren Montgomery is being remembered as a big man with a big personality who was passionate about his business The Big Easy Kitchen. (Submitted by Kandace Holness/GoFundMe)

Warren Montgomery spent his Saturday mornings pretending to be asleep while his two daughters jumped on the king-sized bed to "wake" him. 

The two young girls would hug him or give him wet willies until he roused. It was a weekend tradition, his wife Roshelle Montgomery said. 

This past weekend was very different. Roshelle was at home with their daughters as Warren was fighting for his life in a Regina ICU. 

"I've heard about the ICU being max capacity, overcapacity, but I didn't understand until I saw it," Roshelle said. "It's literally like a nightmare in there."

After battling the coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K., the 42-year-old chef died peacefully Tuesday with Roshelle holding his hand.

WATCH | Roshelle Montgomery speaks about her husband's battle with COVID-19:

Regina chef died after contracting COVID-19

CBC News Saskatoon

3 months ago
4:49
Warren Montgomery, the chef behind The Big Easy Kitchen died Tuesday in Regina after testing positive April 5 4:49

A big personality with a big smile 

Warren was working with Delta Airlines in Atlanta 10 years ago when he and Roshelle connected online. The two met for the first time that June, got married that October and settled in Regina.

"He was my soulmate. He was my everything," Roshelle said. "He was big in life, the big smile. He lived and breathed cooking."

They had two children together, now aged five and eight, and Warren had four children in Louisiana from previous relationships. Roshelle said her girls thought their father "walked on water."

"He was their superhero. They were daddy's girls," Roshelle said. "He's still with us. He's watching them."

Warren Montgomery, far right, was the owner and chef at The Big Easy Kitchen in Regina. (Submitted by Kandace Holness/GoFundMe)

After moving to Regina, Warren started The Big Easy Kitchen, cooking southern food with his own flair. It didn't always make a lot of money, but it was his passion.

Roshelle said Warren got his love of cooking from his mother.

"She cooked for him all the time," she said. "He cooks with love, just like his mom."

Suspects workplace exposure led to family becoming ill

Roshelle said she can only speculate, but believes the exposure to the coronavirus variant started in her office. The company was following all the guidelines, but an outbreak happened, she said. 

Roshelle tested positive on April 4. Warren and their oldest daughter tested positive on April 5.

"Warren and I really started to decline together. We were both struggling to breathe, coughing, aching, extreme fatigue. I could say I've never felt so sick in my entire life," Roshelle said. 

Roshelle Montgomery said her husband, Warren, was an incredible father for their two children. She said the girls thought he was the strongest man and knew everything. (Submitted by Kandace Holness)

Warren declined rapidly. Roshelle said he was coughing to the point where he was throwing up. She phoned 911 and Warren was taken to a local COVID-19 ward.  

"He would call home or message me because he couldn't really talk," she said. "He was scared. He wanted to come home."

Warren declined further. The medical team decided to sedate and intubate him, and moved him to the ICU. Doctors were looking at options when Warren had a major stroke. Roshelle said the ICU doctor told her that a CT scan showed the left side of his brain was dead. 

"There was really nothing else they could do," she said. "He was too weak and fragile. So then it was kind of a decision time." 

Warren Montgomery built up The Big Easy Kitchen from an idea to a business while living in Regina. (Submitted by Kandace Holness/GoFundMe)

The family decided together to remove the ventilator on the afternoon of April 20. Roshelle received a call that morning saying Warren wouldn't make it that long. She rushed to the hospital. Warren's family in the U.S. spoke to him, then Roshelle let her daughters talk to him over the phone before the doctors left.

"Everyone left me alone with him," she said. 

Warren died peacefully about five or 10 minutes later.

"I stayed with him for probably about an hour by myself, just so he wasn't alone."

Warren Montgomery was a father of six — two with Roshelle Montgomery. His other children were able to phone in and say goodbye before he died on April 20. (Submitted by Kandace Holness/GoFundMe)

Outpouring of community support and fundraisers

Roshelle posted about Warren's death on social media a few hours later. Messages started pouring in from thousands of people. 

"It's restored my faith in humanity," she said.

Warren used to joke that he was famous in Regina. Roshelle would keep him humble, joking that no one knew him. The deluge of messages showed her oldest daughter, Eva, that Warren was right. 


"Everybody knows him. I'm floored." she said. "I truly cannot keep up and I'm scared I'm going to miss somebody. I want to thank everybody and I can't, it's overwhelming."

On top of those thousands, others messaged The Big Easy Kitchen on Facebook. The community has also launched multiple fundraisers:

  • A neighbour and friend set up a GoFundMe campaign.
  • Local and Fresh and Agave Authentic Mexican Grill held a taco platter fundraiser.
  • Agave is also holding a Wednesday Cajun fish feast.
  • El Tropezón is donating proceeds from all orders.

So far, more than $30,000 have been raised. Roshelle said the money will go a long way. 

She said she hopes people remember Warren's passion for The Big Easy Kitchen and how he never gave up on his dream.

'It's not worth it' to gather

Roshelle said she had previously been vocal on social media about having COVID-19 fatigue and wanting life back to normal. Now she knows she couldn't have been more wrong.

"It's got to be shut down," she said. "I was so ignorant to how things really are."

Warren Montgomery was the owner and chef of The Big Easy Kitchen in Regina. He brought flavours from New Orleans to the Queen City. (Submitted by Kandace Holness)

Roshelle said she had been given the option to work from home, but at the time didn't think about it. She said she's trying not to feel guilty. 

She is thankful for the ICU staff's hard work through it all. She said they were always positive — telling Warren how much he was loved — and accepted every Facetime or phone request from her and his family. 

"If I could hug every one of them, I would if I could," she said. "They don't get paid enough."


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

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