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Family, friends of alleged victims of Woodstock, Ont., nurse remember loved ones

Friends, family and neighbours are remembering the alleged victims of a Woodstock, Ont., nurse facing first-degree murder charges in the deaths of eight elderly people.

'We're living my father's death right now,' says son of one of the alleged victims

Police identified one of the alleged victims who died at the Woodstock home as James Silcox, 84, who died Aug. 17, 2007. (CBC)

Kind, gentle and caring. That's how Susan Robinson remembers her old friend James Silcox, one of the alleged victims of a Woodstock, Ont., nurse who is facing murder charges in the deaths of eight elderly people in nursing homes. 

Elizabeth Wettlaufer, 49, has been charged with eight counts of first-degree murder. Her alleged victims were between the ages of 75 and 96 and died between August 2007 and August 2014, police said in a news conference Tuesday. 

Silcox, 84, was a Second World War veteran of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. He was married and had six children. He was allegedly killed at the Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement home in Woodstock on Aug. 12, 2007.

"Jim Silcox is one of the nicest men you could ever want to meet," said Robinson. "His children loved their dad so much and he was a wonderful husband to his wife."

Susan Robinson remembers Silcox as a kind and caring person. Silcox is one of the eight alleged victims of a Woodstock, Ont., nurse who is now facing murder charges (CBC)

Daniel Silcox, of Pontypool Ont., said he discovered his father was among the alleged victims while listening to the radio Tuesday morning.

'Best father in the world'

"We're living my father's death right now," he said. "It's horrific."
Silcox, 84, was a Second World War veteran of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. He was married and had six children. (Simon Dingley/CBC News)

His father didn't like living at the Woodstock home, and had broken his hip at the facility, but the family otherwise had no suspicions that his death might not have been natural, Daniel Silcox said.

"We don't want him to become the poster boy of this tragedy, but we would like the story out there: [He was] a wonderful man, a World War II vet, just the best father in the world." 

In a statement, Silcox's family shared part of his eulogy, in which he was described as "a compassionate and loving human being and a man of deep abiding faith." 

Robinson said Silcox, a longtime member of the Old St. Paul's Church in Woodstock, is missed by the community.

"I think the whole church misses him. Even if when he was sick, he would try to drag himself here ... he loved the church and the church loved him," she said.

'A good and decent person'

Friends and neighbours of another alleged victim, Helen Matheson, 95, who died at the Woodstock home on Oct. 27, 2011, said they are still in shock that someone close to them was part of a murder investigation. 

"I thought it's terrible.… But then when you find out there is really somebody you know, that's flesh and blood that you know, It impacts you more," said Donalda Osmond. "She was private and trusting. She'd trust anyone...Just a good and decent person."

Donalda Osmond expresses shock after learning her friend Helen Matheson was killed 0:23

Matheson was quiet and kept to herself, according to her neighbour Graham Harcourt. 

"[She] was an amazing person because she was so smart and so knowledgeable. If you asked anything about the village, she knew it," he said. "I find it really hard to believe that anybody could harm somebody like Helen." 

Gladys Millard, another one of Wettlaufer's alleged victims, who died at the Woodstock home on Oct. 14, 2011, was a member Knox Presbyterian Church in Woodstock. 

She was remembered by the minister of that church, Rev. Mark McLennan, as someone whom everyone spoke fondly of.

"Some of our older members couldn't believe it. She was such a faithful member of our church," he told CBC's As it Happens on Tuesday. 

Nursing home deaths: relative/reverend, Trump TV, tree-costumed artist 27:57

McLennan, who presided over Millard's funeral, said he went back and looked at his notes after he heard the news. 

"Gladys was just a church lady. In the funeral I said her life was a sermon on Christian living and how people of faith should conduct themselves," he said.

Very vibrant, very excited about life

Tony Cuzzocrea met alleged victim Arpad Horvath at a friend's function 40 years ago. The two became friends quickly and often spent time together in London, Ont., where they lived. 

"He was a really nice guy, very friendly," he said. "He was very vibrant, very healthy, very excited about life."

For Cuzzocrea, Horvath's death at the Caressant facility in London on Aug. 31, 2014, was very unexpected. Finding out that his death may have been a murder has left him upset and confused. 

Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, of Woodstock, Ont., is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in the nursing home deaths. (Citynews Toronto/Canadian Press)

"It's just totally shocking to me that this happened in what you would think is a good safe nursing home in a safe country like Canada," he told CBC News. 

Police say there were four other victims at the Woodstock home:

  • Maurice Granat, 84, who died Dec. 23, 2007.
  • Mary Zurawinski, 96, who died Nov. 7, 2011.
  • Helen Young, 90, who died July 14, 2013.
  • Maureen Pickering, 79, who died March 28, 2014.

Police would not say how the victims died, except that seven were administered a fatal dose of a drug.

With files from Canadian Press