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David Edward Frenette, 1993-2014

An adventurer and avid reader, he was drawn to danger. He hoped to be a war correspondent and travel the world.


 

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David Edward Frenette was born on Dec. 28, 1993, in Thunder Bay, Ont., to Liana, a teacher, and Rob, a civil engineer. He was the youngest of three children and arrived five weeks premature, but “healthy and strapping—just anxious to get on with life,” Rob recalls.

When David was a baby, his parents bought a small construction-materials and analytical-testing lab. Along with David and his older siblings, Joe and Sarah, the business was the “fourth element” of the family. As their children grew, the two-person operation matured into a thriving engineering consulting firm. “We took one of those smart risks that defines who we are and is amplified by the way we live our lives, our children included,” Rob says.

The Frenettes were bound by their sense of adventure. Growing up, the siblings would clamber as high as they could up 30-m pine trees near their home, and scuba dive near the family’s cabin on Rainy Lake, where no electricity meant a no-electronics rule. It was there that David began to read avidly, an interest that grew throughout his childhood, to the point where he consumed three or four books a week, working his way up from Archie comics to The Great Gatsby. As a teenager, David became the keeper of the family’s home library, housed in three bookcases with shelves stacked two or three rows deep. “He is responsible for purchasing probably 70 to 80 per cent of those books and reading each and every one,” Joe says.

Rob and Liana prioritized travel to expose their children to life beyond northern Ontario, taking the kids on trips through England, France, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. “I thought maybe they would get bored of it, but no, they just wanted to go farther,” Liana says. By age 17, David had hiked the Alberta Rockies, kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland and, along with Sarah, become the youngest person to sail unaccompanied by an adult on the HMS Bounty from Thunder Bay to Green Bay, Wis. A born swimmer, David couldn’t resist taking a dive off the ship’s jib boom.

In Grade 12 David joined the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment Army Reserves. “He was drawn to danger, no doubt about it,” Rob says. He relished running drills and he paid in push-ups for his inability to keep a straight face: “His biggest challenge was learning how to not smile,” adds Rob.

After graduating in 2011, David signed up for an online journalism course. He could have completed it from Thunder Bay; instead, he moved to Hawaii for six months, diving from the Ka Lae cliffs and living cheaply to a point that mirrored Castaway: “Whenever they ran out of food, they’d just go and spear fish,” Rob says.

After returning home, David worked for the family firm. He also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity. “He had such a huge heart, always trying to associate with the underdog and make them feel better, crack them up with a smile,” Rob says. An ankle injury quashed David’s dream of joining the military, but journalism and photography piqued his wanderlust and love of language. “He wanted to travel to every country in the world,” Rob says. “Through travel, through literature, through journalism, he felt he would never be bored.”

In January, David took classes at Confederation College to upgrade his credits. Drawn to big-city life, he then enrolled in Humber College’s journalism program in Toronto. He moved to the city on Aug. 22, renting a condo overlooking Lake Ontario and the gleaming white steel ribs of the Humber Bay Arch Bridge. Due to start classes on Sept. 3, David told his parents he wanted to move to New York and eventually become a war correspondent. “He would have, I’m sure, gladly backpacked around the world and slept in hostels, hovels, beaches or park benches, just to get that experience,” Rob says.

On Aug. 26, while cycling along the waterfront in his new neighbourhood, David spotted two young men jumping from the Humber Bridge at the mouth of the Humber River. Having dived from much more intimidating cliffs in Hawaii and Australia, David likely didn’t hesitate as he parked his bike, took off his shirt and readied himself on the edge of the pedestrian pathway. Onlookers watched as David dove from the bridge and struck his head on something hard as he plunged into the water. He never regained consciousness and died in hospital on Aug. 30, with his family by his side. He was 20.


 

David Edward Frenette, 1993-2014

  1. Good story, but scary part is I have a lot in common with David Edward Frenette, and I mean a lot. But admit, he has more spunk, he did a lot more in less time. Lets go through what I have in common….

    I am also from Thunder Bay, also lived in Toronto. My first and middle name is the same, and I graduated Confederation college in a science/engineering and left Thunder Bay. Lived in 4 countries, Canada, USA, Scotland, Norway and visited so many countries, its about 20 or so at least. Lived in Wisconsin for almost 10 years in 2 cities, been to Green Bay for Michigan fishing and Packers football. Love to travel and use every excuse I get to do so. At 50 something, I would like to move to somewhere central America, but my lovely wife doesn’t want to, but I am hoping to change that with persuasion. But admit, David Edward Frenette had a lot of spunk, did a lot in a short time. I was more into swimming and fishing than diving, miss Shebandowan, Greenwater Lake and Kashabowie that was hoot in my childhood and later teens.

    To family and friends, condolences for your loss.

  2. I almost can’t believe what I’m reading here… five minutes ago I sent a text to a long distance friend that I hadn’t heard from in a few months; typical of him I thought, as we sometimes had a lengthy gap of time in between conversations. Dave was always jumping from one thing to the next as I knew him.

    I don’t know why, but as soon as the text immediately failed I felt the urge to Google search Dave’s name. I’m not sure now whether I regret that decision or not…

    I met Dave online, through online gaming. We ended up randomly on the same vanilla survival server on Minecraft (Simplecraft) that we played for months towards the end of 2013. We pretty quickly hit it off through conversation over the hours spent playing, and he became one of my regular online buddies. He was always extremely easy to get along with and I found every conversation to be thought provoking and intellectual, it was only one of the things I liked so much about playing with him.

    Eventually, that Minecraft server fell apart, and outside of the game, we exchanged numbers and other tags to communicate through. Dave would sometimes disappear for long periods of time, always showing back up with never-dull stories of his recent undertakings. We would often chat for hours, just conversing about what the other had been up to recently. It turned out to be the case that we had a lot of common, and always had advice to share with one another. Our friendship was one that I truly enjoyed.

    Dave, even though I’d never even met him face-to-face, always seemed to have a strong confidence in me even when I didn’t. He motivated me while I was dealing with the separation with the mother of my child and was always there when I needed someone to talk to. He would listen to what I had to say and always offer meaningful feedback when I needed it most. I would do the same for him in a second. There were several times after we became good friends that he in fact turned out to be one of my best friends.

    “Need me to hop on to chat? Keep you company? And be honest, people never truly know each other”

    That was one of the reply texts I received from him right after I text with a bit of a rant. He could tell I was dealing with a lot and starting to break down a bit, and was there for me. It was just how he was.

    I’ll keep this short as I can’t even keep myself from getting emotional as I write this, but more than anything I hope Dave knew how much of a friend he was to me even in the short time that I knew him. Simply through his personality and helpful advice, he inspired me to stay as outgoing as I can and to just enjoy life in general, no matter what happened.

    “Heading to the gym now, so I’ll talk to you later.”

    That’s the last text I ever received from him, and I honestly thought nothing of it whenever a couple of months past without further response.

    Goodbye, Dave. I’m thankful for the time that I was able to know you. As it happens, you were more of a friend to me than many have even attempted to be, all in the nonchalant, yet conversely enthusiastic manner that frequently defined your interactions. I know that you will always be a thought at the forefront whenever I think of someone who has made a major positive impact in my life, whether or not they realized it.

    To other friends and family, I offer my solemn condolences, as I believe that is all that can be offered in the face of such a devastating loss…

    You will be immensely missed, buddy,

    Jesse Knopp

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