Homeless man dies in bus shelter blaze
Oct 26, 2013 / 7:35 pm
A few hundred people gathered Saturday night for a candlelight ceremony in a small Nova Scotia community where a homeless man died Wedsnesday in a horrific fire inside the bus shelter where he slept.
The candlelight vigil for Harley Gordon Lawrence was held outside the grocery store in Berwick — a town of about 2,500 people in the Annapolis Valley where the homeless man spent his last months.
The ceremony started with prayers as candles flickered in the background.
Chaplain John Andrew, who knew Lawrence, told those gathered that the 62-year-old man's life touched many people as he sat in front of local restaurants with a cup for coins and a bag of old clothes.
"Through Harley, may our hearts go out to those who have struggled to fit into society," said Andrew, who runs the Open Arms Shelter in nearby Kentville.
"Whether they are homeless or among those who suffer in silence with forced smiles. In Harley, may we see our own frailty and know more deeply we're all essentially the same."
His friend Kelly Grant, 49, of Berwick, said she used to bring him food and said she is struggling to cope with his loss.
"He was pleasant and light hearted," said Grant, who organized the event called "Soar High Harley."
"He made the streets his home. It took a man of intelligence to survive these cold winters and storms we have here in the Maritimes."
Angie MacEachern, a friend of Lawrence, read a poem to the crowd.
"The streets of small-town Berwick were my final place to dwell. Some folks looked upon me with sympathy, others with shame as if I was going to taint this small town's precious name," she said.
"Behind my tattered clothing was a warm and kindly smile and I rest knowing that I will be remembered and missed by many even though I was only here for a little while."
Family members sat quietly in the front row of the ceremony, and a sister brought flowers to lie them in the bus shelter amidst the candles and lights that people had laid down.
People donated clothing for local shelters, and they also put money in a can to help pay for his tombstone.
They did not speak and declined to comment as they quietly departed afterwards.
Andrew said the vigil was held to remember Lawrence, and focus on the plight of the homeless.
Police have deemed Lawrence's death suspicious, and the medical examiner's office has requested further information. But the RCMP have said they won't comment on the accounts while the investigation continues.
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