With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of our fierce warrior, Samantha Dawn Pearson, on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019 in Ottawa, Ont.
Sam, as she was known by family and friends, was born on July 14, 1986 in Fort Frances, Ont.
From the moment she arrived in this world, it was clear that Sam was a bright, feisty, and independent soul. As a young child in Mine Centre, she unabashedly strutted through her parents' store, and loved to put her feet in her dad's big boots and stick her hands in his leech-flled bucket when he returned from bait trapping.
Sam attended school in Fort Frances, where she continued to explore and soak up any bit of wildlife she could fnd, whether capturing tadpoles and frogs in the ditch on the way home from school or waiting for weekends and summers, when she could immerse herself in the waters and forests of Rainy Lake.
With her sister, Jessica, Sam was involved from a young age in competitive gymnastics, eventually reaching the provincial levels until injuries prevented her from continuing. Nonetheless, she could be seen doing cartwheels, handstands, and layovers on docks and beaches, and in felds and hallways wherever she travelled.
Sam was an avid and accomplished outdoorswoman. She learned foraging from her grandfather, Glenn, who patiently showed her and her sister the right mushrooms to pick and how to observe the detail of the fora and fauna around his home at Reef Point.
With her father, Victor, Sam spent many days each season fshing, hunting, and helping at his minnow trapping grounds in the Rainy Lake, Turtle River, and Otukamamoan Lake areas. A day on the water in spring and summer, or fishing out on an open span of creaking winter ice with a warming fire nearby, or waiting quietly on a beautiful autumn morning, listening for the sound of the hounds scenting a deer, readying herself for the chase—these were all good days for Sam.
She eventually developed such an excellent aim with her rife that her father, known for his bush skills, left the shooting to her while he chased deer and moose her way.
After graduating from Fort Frances High School, Sam attended the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, excelling in the Nutritional Sciences Program. Her education was interrupted by a mysterious and increasingly serious illness which eventually brought her to the Ottawa Heart Institute, where she courageously endured her frst heart transplant in October, 2011.
After recovering, Sam returned with determination and deep gratitude to her active life. She maintained her fishing, hunting, and exploring activities on weekends and during summers in Northwestern Ontario while finishing her university degree in Winnipeg. After graduating, Sam moved back to her cherished hometown of Fort Frances, where she landed her dream job at the Northwestern Health Unit as Health Educator in the Chronic Disease Prevention Program.
Sam had a remarkable way of connecting with all ages in the community, and was well-known for her passionate advocacy for healthy lifestyles as a way to prevent disease and maintain physical, emotional, and mental health. She was a tireless worker, giving her incredible presence to initiatives such as kids' cooking programs, the Healthy Food Box, school programs like PALS, pop-up play events in local parks, as well as supporting several youth and seniors' committees.
Sam was especially passionate and effective with children and youth. Through the Fort Frances Community Garden project, she embraced the Kids Garden Club, bringing kids into gardening in a creative and fun way.
Through her work, Sam helped kids and adults alike to believe in their abilities, and encouraged them to make and to reach for healthy goals.
Sam continued to pursue her love of the outdoors with her partner, Lorne Koski. Together, they spent time at a fly-in outpost camp, made raised vegetable beds and planted fruit trees on the farm, picked mushrooms, and built furniture for family and community initiatives.
Sam loved riding ancient tractors and modern four-wheelers through the farm felds, relaxing at Lorne's cabin, and especially loved spending time in the farm's garage, whether building, chopping wood, or hanging out with friends and a beer.
After troubling symptoms emerged in 2017, Sam eventually needed to relocate to Ottawa, where she courageously endured treatments and procedures at the Heart Institute for complications related to heart failure, and awaited a second heart transplant.
Through her triumphs and complications, Sam maintained unwavering focus and dignity, moving through the halls and grounds of the hospital with poise and patience. She made new friends in Ottawa, some of whom are awaiting their own transplants. Even when she was the most challenged, Sam was compassionate with her friends, family, and colleagues, and maintained her wacky sense of humour.
Her social media posts—with stories about her IV pole Elanore, details of her rabbit injections, hilarious descriptions of hospital food, and photos of funny shirts and delicious care packages sent by friends and family—were creative, generous, and popular.
Sam's passion, energy, and bright presence were felt strongly by everyone who knew her. She had an uncanny way of seeing people for their potential. She would want all those she touched to live their best life fiercely, completely, and passionately.
Sam is survived by her mother, Ellen Canfeld Gagne; father, Victor Pearson; stepfather, Pete Gagne; sister, Jessica Pearson (Luc); nephews, Nicholas and Dylan, grandmother, Lillian Pearson; and partner-in-life, Lorne Koski.
She also is survived by her stepbrother, Chris Little-Gagne (James) and nephew, Caleb; stepbrother, Michael Gagne (Lindsey Knight), nephew, Colin, and niece Lydia; and stepbrother, Dan Gagne; as well as numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends.
Sam was predeceased by her grandmother, Margaret Canfeld; grandfather Glenn Canfeld; and grandfather, Vernon Folke Pearson.
It's not hard to imagine Sam's presence dancing through the clouds and raindrops over Fort Frances, rippling through the waters of Otukamamoan Lake and Reef Point, sparking rainbows over Lake Vermilion, reflecting light and shadows in the window of her favourite coffee shop, or breathing a rustle in the tall grasses on a certain farm outside town to remind us, with that fiercely loving gaze, to live fully, love deeply, and get off our butts and get outside.
Through the seven-plus years of living with a transplanted heart, Sam became an advocate for organ donation, lending her name, her voice, and her time to the Heart and Stroke Foundation and organ donor agencies. Please consider being an organ donor at beadonor.ca
Sam was humbly grateful for the overwhelming generosity of the community during her lengthy health journey. Her family would appreciate donations to the “Fort Frances Community Chest” to benefit others experiencing medical emergencies at fortfrancescommunitychest.com or Fort Frances Community Chest, 1725 Colonization Rd. W., Fort Frances, Ont., P9A 3V2.
A celebration of Samantha's life will take place on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at 2 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion, 250 Church St., in Fort Frances.
In tune with her lifestyle, the theme for the celebration will be informal—please dress in your favourite casual, camouflage, plaid, or any other bush or activewear-style clothing.