Kylar Thomas Russell Williams was born on May 15, 1995, to Sherry Avery and Kyle Williams, who live in Alberton, P.E.I. In those days, Sherry stayed home with the boys (brother Taylor was almost two years younger) while Kyle worked on a nearby potato farm. By the time Kylar was about four, he started tagging along with his dad. “He’d play around the tractors, or ride in the potato truck,” recalls Kyle. “He loved anything with a motor and a set of wheels.”
Kylar spent a lot of time with his grandparents, Nancy and Russell Williams, who live in nearby Elmsdale, especially after his parents split up several years ago. Kylar was their first grandchild, Nancy says, and would call her Nana. “He was a very active, energetic boy,” says Nancy. Kylar played hockey as a kid, until he fell off a potato truck and broke his arm when he was about six. But he continued to love the sport, especially the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Over the past few years, Kyle spent winters out west working in the oil patch. Kylar moved in with his grandparents, and Taylor stayed with Sherry. Hockey continued to be a family bond, even though Taylor and Sherry loved the Montreal Canadiens. “Kylar would call whenever Toronto beat Montreal,” says Sherry. “I tried to get him to cheer for Montreal since he was little, but there was nothing I could do to change his mind.”
As Kylar got older, he became more interested in motor vehicles of all kinds. At his grandparents’ house, Russell says, he’d go out to the garage, get the lawnmower, and drive it up to the house just to take the garbage down to the curb. “It was about three times as hard to drive the lawnmower as it was to just walk down with the garbage,” laughs Russell, but Kylar would look for any excuse to get behind the wheel. “He loved motorcycles, lawnmowers, cars and trucks,” says Nancy.
Soon, dirt bikes were added to that list. When Kylar was 13 and Taylor 11, the brothers started saving up to buy a pair. Taylor made money refereeing hockey games, and Kylar pumped gas and worked on the farm with his dad. Last summer, Russell took them to get their own dirt bikes. “They were so happy,” he says. “We loaded the bikes in the truck, and you just should have seen the smiles on their faces.” All last summer, Kylar and Taylor were out dirt biking in the fields around home “pretty much whenever they could,” says Sherry.
Kylar could seem “macho,” says Nancy—a bit of a daredevil, even—but he had a soft side, and he was very safety conscious. Even if his friends jumped their dirt bikes, Kylar wouldn’t do it, and he didn’t like to ride through water. “They didn’t drive at night, and they were always home before dark,” adds Russell. “If he thought he’d get hurt at something, he’d never do it.”
About to turn 16 in May, Kylar was “really, really looking forward to getting his driver’s licence,” says Sherry. “Every time he got in the car, he’d ask, ‘Can I drive?’ ” Kylar would clean Sherry’s car, and talk about how, once he got his licence, he planned to drive her to the convenience store where she works, and then take the car to school. On Christmas Day, “there were two wrapped gifts under the tree, and he was dying for me to open them,” says Sherry. They were car-seat covers, emblazoned with the Montreal Canadiens logo. “I told him he could drive the car out back to put them on,” says Sherry.
About two months ago, Sherry put her name down to become a volunteer firefighter. “I don’t know why,” she says. “I’d always thought about it, and one day, I saw they were accepting applications. I just thought I’d give it a try.” Kylar was a little worried for his mom, says Nancy: “She’s so soft-hearted, he wondered if she’d be able to do it.” Even so, Sherry signed up and was given a pager to keep her on alert. Since she won’t be officially trained until next January, she would only be able to observe at any incident for which she was called.
On March 21, Sherry was at work when her pager went off. “From what I’d heard, a car was on fire,” she says. “It was just three minutes up the road. The ambulance and firetrucks were there, and I’d just put my gear on, when the fire chief came up and asked if he could talk to me. He asked me if my boy was on a dirt bike.” Kylar had been driving his dirt bike along the road when a car turned left into a driveway. The bike collided with the car, causing the fire. Kylar was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 15.