Gord and Peggy Parmenter hold a family tree diagram on their 50th wedding anniversary. Gord was killed in a shooting at the Salmon Arm Church of Christ on Sunday, April 14, 2019. (Contributed)

Victim’s son speaks about Shuswap church shooting on first anniversary

Reflects on relationship with man charged, feels empathy for Nova Scotia victims

April 14, 2020. For the Parmenter family, the time to gather and ease the pain was not to be.

A year earlier, the unimaginable happened. The father of the family, Gordon Parmenter, was shot to death in the Salmon Arm Church of Christ during a Sunday service.

“The year anniversary was tremendously significant for us,” said Dave Parmenter, Gordon’s son. “To a person – we have a large family, we all did our best to try and mark that time. Our plan was to spend a couple of days together, because it was also a time to rally around my mom who had her birthday around the same time.”

To their dismay, Peggy, Gord’s wife, ended up in hospital the day before her birthday and three days before the anniversary of her husband’s death.

Due to COVID-19, her family could not be with her, except by telephone and FaceTime.

“I think we all had a bad day. A bad week, really,” Dave remarked.

His family members don’t all go to the same church as his mother and father, but their individual faith has held them together over the past year. Dave has a sister and brother, as well as a sister who died in 2003.

“I think our faith is what has kept us from imploding and from also just letting hate and anger and fear rule our lives… I think in our loss our family didn’t fall apart, like I often see. So I’m thankful for that.”

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Dave has kept close track of the charges against Matrix Gathergood as they make their way through the courts. Gathergood, 25, is charged with murder in the death of Gordon Parmenter as well as aggravated assault in the wounding of Paul Derkach. His trial is set for July and he is being housed in the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam. He also faces a charge of arson in the burning of the Parmenter’s home a month prior to the shooting.

Gathergood is no stranger to the Parmenters.

“Matrix was part of our family. I went back and was able to dig out photos of him with us at Christmastime and birthdays and eating with our family, and hanging out with my dad, and just watching football games or working in the shop with Dad. And so he was just a neighbourhood kid, he wasn’t one of Dad’s foster kids, but we all considered him kind of one of the gang, if not a brother or a nephew or something like that, part of the family.”

Turning to the shootings in Nova Scotia, Dave said he experienced a tremendous feeling of empathy for everyone who lost someone or was nearly involved in it themselves. He hopes people in those communities will be able to support those families like he and his family were supported.

“One thing if I kind of transport back to a year ago and think about what happened, we recognized it didn’t just traumatize my family and it didn’t just terrorize that church. It was the whole town. The whole town, people that I spoke to or who had gone there and didn’t really know my dad and really didn’t have an intimate connection to the event were really rocked by it.

“It just really made them feel unsafe… and shook their security.”

At that time he kept saying over and over again that people needed to be in community.

“Really supporting each other. They needed to be talking about their fears and their pain and they needed support around that, because I was receiving that kind of support and I was finding it extremely helpful. And I know it wasn’t helpful for people to be sitting at home feeling fearful and not able to talk about it with someone.”

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He knows what a difficult time this will be for people in Nova Scotia during COVID-19 because, for him, his family’s tragedy was a time for hugs and being close, not a time to be alone.

He said it’s not possible to look to the perpetrator to try and find meaning with this kind of loss, as you can’t comprehend the kind of hate or fear or whatever was happening with the individual who did the shooting in Nova Scotia.

“I know I find great hope through my faith, and I think it’s time for borrowing the hope of others if you don’t have it for yourself. But I know that that’s done in community, it’s not done individually.”

Which brings him back to expressing gratitude for the people who have supported him and his family in Salmon Arm, and the fact they don’t forget.

Whereas my sister goes home to her place in the States and no one seems to know it was a different day yesterday than it was today. It felt like the tragedy was felt by everyone here and it felt like we all mourned it together. I think that was not typical when you lose your parent, right, and I wouldn’t want anyone ever to lose their parent this way, but, given the circumstances, it just was so amazing that people came together.”

He speaks of his father.

“I think we’re thankful that my dad was in his twilight years and not in his early years, of course, that we had a strong family connection and we had many, many memories with him. And we feel absolutely cheated because we don’t have the opportunity for making memories with him in the future. And we’re thankful he was a good leader in our family and a good man and he was someone to celebrate. That I think makes us all proud of him and, at the same time, makes us miss him all the more.”


marthawickett@saobserver.net
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The Salmon Arm Church of Christ held its first church service in its home in Salmon Arm on June 16 following the shooting on April 14, 2019. (File photo)

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