A young woman who lost her brother in a Canada Day collision remembered him on Saturday as a humble soul and a giving person.
“He never expected anything of anyone and he would give anything to any one of us,” Stephanie Chanminaraj said on Saturday.
Anouluck “Jeffrey” Chanminaraj, 13, died when a truck collided with the small car Stephanie was driving to the Canada Day fireworks at Bower Ponds.
Her other younger brother Jamie, 18, had to be flown by STARS air ambulance to Calgary and Stephanie had to spend a night at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre as a result of the crash.
Around 200 of Jeffrey’s family, friends, classmates and teachers gathered at Parkland Funeral Home and Crematorium in north Red Deer on Saturday afternoon for a funeral ceremony and memorial for the young man who brought joy to so many.
Before the service, pictures of Jeffrey were shown on a screen and in each one he had a look of compassion in his dark smiling eyes. Photos displayed from the time he was a toddler to more recent moments, building a giant Jenga puzzle and watching as it toppled over.
Stephanie remembered happy times with her younger brother. The two of them used to cook together, making Christmas dinner, special birthday meals and even pancakes on Sundays. “He was like my own personal butler, looking to please,” Stephanie said.
Like any siblings, Stephanie said she and her brothers would at times laugh, play, argue and bicker. They went through good and bad together, overcoming many obstacles in life. But she said Jeffrey was always the glue that held them together.
Her brother Jeffrey was growing up. The 13-year-old Central Middle School student wanted to learn how to play guitar and tai kwon do. He was concerned with his hair, he was dealing with acne and thinking about girls. Jeffrey even had his first girlfriend, although his siblings teased him about her being “make believe.”
Stephanie said her brother was starting a new chapter in his life, but that chapter suddenly came to an end. He died before they made it to Bower Ponds for the final Canada Day celebrations.
“Every time I see fireworks I know I’ll think of him,” she said.
On Saturday, there wasn’t a seat left in the chapel, with friends and family even pulling in extra chairs to sit down in the aisle. Jeffrey’s older brother Jamie was transported from Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre — where he is now being treated — on a stretcher in an ambulance by two fire-medics to attend his younger brother’s funeral.
Much of the funeral ceremony was in the Laotian language of Laos. Jeffrey was born in Surrey, B.C., but his parents Tony Chanminaraj and mother Fongsamout Thongsirimongkhonh, who are no longer together as a couple, are originally from Laos.
The first part of the service involved a Buddhist funeral ceremony. Jeffrey’s uncle on his father’s side Van Chanminaraj, said the monk explained the process of life and death and the three monks then did a ritual to send Jeffrey to heaven. Chaniminaraj said the monk told the crowd that because Jeffrey has done nothing wrong he is pure and he will only go to heaven.
Van said he will always have room in his heart for his soft-spoken nephew who was such a brave and smart boy. “It’s tough to lose someone special like that,” Van said.
He said his brother Tony moved the family to Red Deer to get away from the drugs and violence in other places and for something like this to happen has been a shock.
A man has been charged in relation to the collision. Rodney Arens, 32, of Red Deer, has been charged with impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, three counts of refusing to provide a Breathalyzer sample and breach of conditions. Arens returns to court on July 23.
Jeffrey’s cousin Olay Chanthamala also spoke during the service, wishing the crowd of people happiness, joy, success and laughter in their lives.
“Stay safe and love those around you because you do not know when they are going to leave us,” he said.