As candles flickered in the darkness Sunday night, family and friends remembered a woman with a gentle soul, beautiful eyes, a warm smile and a big heart.
About 75 people gathered outside the home of Leanne Friesen for a candlelight vigil in her memory. People cried and hugged during the solemn occasion, which included many parents and children from the close-knit neighbourhood.
Leanne, 40, was fatally shot last Wednesday night at her home in the 34800 block of Cassiar Court in Abbotsford. Her estranged husband, Jeff Friesen, 40, has been charged with second-degree murder and is set to make his first appearance in court on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
During the vigil, several family members addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support during a difficult time.
“She was my soul, my half. I will miss my sister,” said Tammie Mack, Leanne’s identical twin sister through tears.
Also on hand were Leanne’s children – an 11-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl.
“We’ll take good care of them,” a family member assured the crowd.
A man responded by saying that he and the other neighbours would also be there for the kids: “We are your extended family.”
“We love you!” shouted another neighbour, as Leanne’s son quietly said, “Thank you.”
People who could not be at the vigil posted photos of lighted candles on Leanne’s Facebook memorial page. Many of them were from Westbank, Kelowna and Peachland – the areas where Leanne grew up before moving to Abbotsford about 10 years ago.
Leanne’s twin spoke to the Abbotsford News on Friday to share memories of her sister.
Leanne was born just five minutes after Tammie, but Leanne often took on the big-sister role.
“She was an awesome sister. We were always watching out for each other no matter what … but she acted like the older sister. She always had to tell me how to dress,” Tammie laughed through tears.
She said her sister’s death will leave a void in the world. She described Leanne as “fun-loving, warm, bubbly, a good listener” and someone who liked to take charge and stay busy.
“She would always make sure everything was done. She would always have to fix everybody’s problems before her own.”
Tammie said Leanne loved to have fun. One of her favourite things to do was to get dressed up and go out with friends.
She always had a smile on her face and had a sarcastic sense of humour that kept others laughing, Tammie said.
“She always had a twinkle in her eye.”
Leanne, whose maiden name was Mack, was born in Kelowna and grew up with Tammie and their younger sister and brother in Peachland.
Their carefree days often consisted of going to the beach, hanging out with friends, or riding their bikes.
Leanne and Tammie were both athletic and played volleyball and basketball during their years at George Pringle Secondary, from which they graduated in 1991.
After high school, Leanne worked as a home care aide for seniors.
It was a job that was ideal for her big heart and her knack for helping others, Tammie said.
The two sisters lived together in Kelowna for a period in the 1990s. Jeff Friesen was their neighbour, and he began dating Leanne in about 1997.
The couple were married in 2000, and had two children together.
Tammie described Leanne as a “very loving mother” who enjoyed playing the role of “hockey mom” and spending time with her kids.
The family moved to Abbotsford when Jeff, a contractor, found work in the area. Leanne set up a housecleaning business.
Troubles in the marriage led to the couple separating a few months ago. Leanne remained in their home on Cassiar Court, and Jeff moved in with his parents.
Tammie declined to provide further comment on her sister’s marriage, saying simply, “She didn’t deserve this.”
Memorial details have not yet been finalized.
A trust fund has been set up for Leanne’s children at Envision Financial. Deposits for the Friesen children can be made at any branch into account 6793277. To donate by email or online, call 604-557-7480 for details.