Gone, but not forgotten. Commemorating the life of Val Careen (Feb. 18, 1955 – August 21, 2019)
Lena Careen-Codner sometimes still can’t believe her brother, Val Careen, is gone. “I miss him. Sometimes you take for granted that the ones you love will always be there. You get busy, but when someone is gone, you truly realize how short life is,” she says quietly.
One thing she can believe, however, is discovering how treasured her brother was beyond their immediate family, though she also admits it was something she didn’t grasp entirely until his funeral.
A good man
“I always knew my brother was a good man. His daughter and his grandchildren were his life,” she shares. “But to find out the depth of his loss to an entire region was really moving and inspiring.”
Their family were a large, close-knit clan. “There were 18 children in the family, and Val was the eighth child. He was a firefighter in Placentia and was the only one who drove the truck. If he was there, the wheel was in his hands. Other volunteer firefighters said of my brother, ‘Val would be at the firehouse and we’d still be putting on our socks.’’’
The only two days of this year this proud Legion member would never drive the town’s firetruck was on July 1st and November 11th. Those days were for honouring and reflecting.
Careen-Codner visited The Herald’s office one day to talk about her brother.
Dedicated to others
“I’m almost two years older than my brother. He was always very quiet. Once he was old enough, he was into cadets. He wanted something structured. With so many in the family, there was everything and everyone everywhere. We moved to Placentia when I was five, so he was just a baby, and Placentia became his home and has been his home all his life,” she reflects.
Why did she want to share her brother’s life with Herald readers? Because she’s so very proud of the dedicated to the service of others life he lived.
“I’m very proud and I want everybody to know what a good man he was. How fitting that his story be shared on Remembrance Day. He would be so honoured. So proud. November 11th was so important. He always remembered our veterans. Each time someone said Canada Day, he would correct everyone and not call July 1st Canada Day but Memorial Day, because that’s what it is first.”
A dedicated volunteer firefighter, Careen was also a loving father and grandfather. He had two daughters. One, Shawnisey, has two girls, Makayla and Cassidy and they live in Fort McMurray. Mary, the other, has two boys, Brady and Leland who call Newfoundland home.
‘‘He so wanted to see those boys grow up. When Leland started kindergarten this year it was so sad that poppy wasn’t there.”
Loved their life
Her brother was only 64 when he passed from cancer. “He was diagnosed in February with a very aggressive form of cancer. But not for one minute did he think he was going to die. When he was admitted to hospital August 16th, he told everyone he would be out in no time. He passed on August 21st.”
As any loving sister would, Careen-Codner grows quiet in reflection.
“When I found out he had died, shocked wasn’t the word. He and his wife Marion, if they had to come to town they were in and out. They loved their life in Placentia so much. So, we live in Portugal Cove-St.Philip’s and we didn’t see one another often, but whenever we could, we made the time.”
One of the reasons her brother stayed close to home was because of his dedication to volunteering.
“He was a very active member of the The Royal Canadian Legion. He spent 38 years in the Legion and 37 as a volunteer firefighter.’’
When news spread of his cancer diagnosis, a fundraiser was held to help the man who had given so much to others.“We went over to help set up and you couldn’t get around the place, people were coming from everywhere, not just Placentia but from all the communities far and wide.”
After her brother died, it seemed people were coming out of the woodwork to comfort the family
It was beautiful
“The embraces from complete strangers. The love. It was beautiful. I went to a flower shop to buy him a rose and the lady there knew my brother almost better than I did. She told me he would go in just to visit and chat. We were all just blown away with how much he will be missed in this community he created.”
True to his service to others before self life code, Careen-Codner shares a touching story.
Dr. Zara Sharghi tended to her brother from the moment he was diagnosed with cancer until he passed. Because she wasn’t use to the cold Newfoundland weather, and because he had found out she would be leaving this province to practice elsewhere, he wanted a ‘remember your time here’ sweater made for her.
“It was on his mind as he was dying. Right until he went unconscious he was saying, ‘did you get that sweater yet? Is it ready? He slipped into unconsciousness and our brother came and said ‘I’m going now and your sweater is ready. He took two breathes and he died. It was like he was waiting for that last gift before he could let go.”
There’s so many tales, so much giving, evidence of a life well lived. His sister shares many stories, though her brother’s life can best by tied up neatly with these final words. “We will probably never know the depth of his kindness and generosity. He was a good man.”