During Friday’s University of Windsor convocation, Alicia Baertsoen filled in for her sister Victoria, who was killed in a car crash last month.
“I don’t think that I’ll ever feel more honoured to do anything in my entire life,” said Alicia, who accepted her younger sister’s degree in education.
The crash took place May 21 in Wallaceburg, Ont. Police said in a statement that a car entered the street and struck a semi-tanker truck.
Victoria Baertsoen, 24, died along with Matthew Cousins, 24, and Shae-Lynn Bachus, 23.
Windsor Morning11:03Victoria’s convocation
Alicia says she and Victoria were close and talked a lot about graduation.
“I know how much it means to her, how hard she worked for it. I don’t think I’ll ever have a prouder moment in my entire life.”
University staff framed her education degree and sent it to Wallaceburg so it could be a focal point of Baertsoen’s visitation and funeral.
Victoria’s dad, Chris, says it was a priority for him and that the university really stepped up.
“We’re so thankful for everything they’ve done,” he said. “We were very touched.”
Ken Montgomery, dean of the faculty of education with the University of Windsor, says a video tribute was held during Friday’s convocation, along with a gathering on campus after the ceremony.
“Victoria had made a tremendous impact on this faculty,” said Montgomery.
“She was a lovely human being and a wonderful teacher. In the end, she actually secured a job even before completing the program in the Catholic board.”
Victoria’s mom, Kerry, says she and her husband are both teachers and were initially surprised she wanted to follow in their footsteps.
“When she was 11 or 12, she didn’t want to babysit because she thought kids were annoying,” Kerry said. “But she had come to my classroom … in Grade 9, and I saw her firsthand in my classroom and was quite amazed at how she handled the children.”
Kerry says Victoria would’ve made an excellent teacher because she could command a classroom with firmness and was well organized with “awesome” lesson plans.
“She had a sense of humour and a soft spot for all the kids. They really, truly did love her.”
Alicia says her sister’s name has been extra meaningful since the tragedy.
“She did pass away on Victoria Day weekend and was taken to Victoria hospital [in London]. Actually, the casket … we all decided it was this beautiful white casket, and I bent down and I could not believe I saw it was made in Victoriaville.”
Alicia calls Victoria her best friend and the “brightest light in the world.”
“She had a laugh and a smile that … was just so contagious that everybody would know and everybody would love.”
“We really just want to celebrate the amazing, impactful life and noble life that she’s lived.”