Hundreds of people are expected to attend the celebration of Wes Petterson’s life on Friday in Weldon, Sask.
“It just kind of tells you the effect he had on people,” said Vera Hoknes, Petterson’s older sister.
Petterson was one of 10 victims who died during the stabbings in Saskatchewan on Sept. 4. Nine of the victims died on the James Smith Cree Nation, while Petterson was killed in at his home in Weldon. Several others were also injured at James Smith Cree Nation.
The grief from losing her brother in such a brutal way has left Hoknes numb.
“My grandfather, my father, both lived to their early 80s and died in bed, and there was no reason to think my brother would go otherwise,” she said.
Hoknes was watching the news in her B.C. home when she learned tragedy had struck her brother’s community. She called his landline and his cell, but he didn’t answer.
She called around, finally learning that her brother, a man well-known in the community, had been killed. For Hoknes, it has been an unfathomable loss.
“I really felt, and I still feel, a car accident, a plane accident —I lost my son to H1N1 flu — and you can accept that, but it’s so hard to accept this murderous rage.”
Hoknes said her heart breaks for the families of the other victims, who have been holding wakes and funerals for their loved ones throughout the week.
She and her family do not harbour any hard feelings against the people connected and related to the people accused of the killings, Hoknes said.
“I do hold the justice system [at fault], he should have never been let out,” she said, referring to one of the accused Myles Sanderson.
“I’m not saying he should be in jail, but he should be getting some kind of treatment.”
She’s hopeful this tragedy will lead to scrutiny and change.
Petterson and Hoknes were two years apart in age. They grew up near Meskanaw, a small community south of Weldon.
“A one-room country school, walking two-and-a-half miles walking through snow each way, that was my little brother,” she said.
Petterson then attended an agricultural college program in Saskatoon and took a job working for a farmer near Weldon.
It was around that time he found love, meeting his wife Sylvia.
“They got married very young and that was it, they were just together.”
As Hoknes mourns her brother, she notes he experienced immense loss in his own life. Sylvia died in 2015 after battling cancer since 1997. She and Petterson had two children together: Wesley, who lives in Saskatoon, and Karen, who died in a car accident just before her 40th birthday.
Petterson and his wife took custody of Karen’s son, who was nine at the time, and raised him. He discovered Petterson’s body.
Hoknes said her brother was kind, with a fondness for people, animals and the outdoors.
She said Petterson developed a fondness for berry picking while they had to do it as a chore.
“There’s nothing in this world I despise more than picking berries, and Wes just loved it.”
He carried that love throughout his life. Hoknes said he had feared he wouldn’t be able to get out this year because of health issues, but he did get out to the patch, with a little help from his friends.
Hoknes doesn’t know why her brother was killed. His vehicle wasn’t stolen. She wonders if he saw someone or something he shouldn’t have.
She said Petterson was known to be an early riser. She imagines that before he was attacked, he had a typical morning: making coffee and heading out onto his front step to watch the squirrels.
He adored the squirrels, deer and foxes who passed by his home.
She said he also had three hummingbirds who visited his yard annually. They became so familiar with him that they sat on his garden hose while he watered.
This was the first year they didn’t come back.
Hoknes said her brother liked to keep things running and tidy. He made sure to keep the gravesites of his late loved ones trim, bringing flowers on special occasions.
“Be sure you leave a flower for me,” she would tell him.
Now people will leave flowers for Petterson.