A Life Humbly Lived: Taavel's Family Accept Queen's Jubilee Medal
Raymond' Taavel's family, brother Andre Taavel, mother Susan Blatter- mother, his sister, Elizabeth Robins, with Megan Leslie, Halifax MP and Raymond's friend,. Photo: Steffanie Date
By Steffanie Date, LOCAL2.CA.
Reprinted with permission.
“We’re just so proud of Raymond and the legacy that he has left. He died the same way that he lived. He went to the aid of somebody that was in trouble. He gave the ultimate sacrifice.” Andre Taavel’s voice trembles slightly as he speaks lovingly about his big brother.
On April 17th, 2012 Raymond Taavel intervened when he witnessed a man being beaten. In trying to end the violence against the victim the attacker turned his attention to Raymond. Raymond was beaten to death by Andre Noel Denny. The 32 yr. old was a psychiatric patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital and he failed to return to the hospital after being let out on a one-hour pass.
In late October, Raymond was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal. The medal is awarded to individuals who demonstrate dedication to community and nation. After his murder several nominations were put forward by the people in Halifax who worked alongside him on many causes. Having just returned from Halifax a few months prior to the original award ceremony it just wasn’t practical for the family to return.
The MP of Halifax and Raymond’s friend, Megan Leslie, put the wheels in motion to organize a second ceremony in Sault Ste. Marie. She travelled to the Sault and during a celebration on Friday night Megan presented the award to Raymond’s mother, Susan Blatter.
Often described as an ‘activist without anger’ Raymond stood up for numerous causes. Wiping away a tear Megan smiled and remembered her friend. “He was an incredible community activist. If you were involved in community at all it was hard not to know him. He had his finger in every pot. Raymond was really engaged in a lot of issues including democratic reform and civic engagement in the political system.”
After his murder, the media began to become a bit sensationalized. The community had a strong reaction to this knowing that Raymond would not want the story defiled in that manner. Bringing her fists to her chest and pointing her elbows out at her sides Megan commented, “The community just stood arm locked in arm against that and said ‘no, that’s not the way Raymond would have wanted that to be told. He would have hugged his killer. He would have felt compassion. He would have asked himself what happened here, how do we prevent this’. The community backlash was so swift that the media took a step back.”
Stories about Raymond’s activism and the positive impact that he made in so many lives began to pour out of Halifax. Andre and his family were overwhelmed. “We always knew he was involved in so much but he was such a humble person that it was always about the cause and not him. I don’t even think he realized what a significant difference he made. When all the stories came out of Halifax we were blown away. And not just that alone but also by how much he was loved by so many people. We knew we loved him but we just didn’t know that so many others did too.”
In death Raymond continues to inspire others to be reflective, kind and active. Megan speaks with pride about the work that has forged ahead on behalf of Raymond. “Since his murder there have been extraordinary things happening in Halifax- panel discussion about mental illness and the criminal justice system and really good in depth conversations about our healthcare system. It’s been an extraordinarily difficult journey for all of us but it has been an extraordinary journey.”
For Andre and his family, the recognition of his brother from a nation and the acknowledgement of the imprint that he has left behind are comforting. “It helps with the grieving process, knowing that his death wasn’t in vain and that he was accepted and appreciated for everything that he did. We just wish so much that he was here in person to accept the accolades. It is bittersweet.”
Andre is quiet for a moment before he continues. “People who didn’t know him wish they would have known him. I guess my brother showed people that it isn’t the quantity of life but the quality of the life you live. It’s what you do with that short moment that we have here to make a difference that is important. Raymond definitely made a difference.”
LOCAL2.ca is a local news and information platform and portal based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. It is owned by Raymond Taavel's nephew.