Volunteers descended on the Thorsby Fas Gas to help a family in need after a tragedy devastated them, but they got some great news this weekend.
“Collectively, we all agree that this H.U.G. Event has been blessed by the Grace of God,” local contractor and volunteer coordinator Rhonda Fiveland stated.
On Friday, May 25, 2018, the family was called into the RCMP detachment in Thorsby. Fiveland stayed in the store with Jo’s wife, Meyoung-Hee, awaiting the return of Ed and Kay, Jo’s son and daughter and the news they would carry. Upon arrival, Ed burst into tears, “They finally caught him.”
The RCMP arrested and charged a man allegedly responsible for Ki Yun Jo’s death in a hit and run that killed the Thorsby businessman last fall. Kay’s response was simple, “Relieved.” Ed expressed that he felt more sad, that for seven months he had been bottling up his emotions as he hung on to the magnitude of his father’s death; the loss of his father, the impact on the business and the stress he carried because the culprit remained free. Meyoung-Hee cried, “Now I can let go of my fear that this person was still coming into our store.”
Fiveland smiled, “You could literally feel the change of the family’s energy. Meyoung-Hee’s smile radiated throughout the store. Ed stood taller. Kay bounced from task to task . I am just so happy for this family. They needed and deserved this closure.”
The rest of the day was spent preparing for the arrival of Dan Dick and his crew to re-shingle the gas station May 26.
Dan arrived with his crew of 15 at 7 a.m. including his mother, Joan Dick who would be dubbed the crew chief for the day. When asked why she chose to participate, “Simple. My son told me of his plan to help this struggling family and I wanted to help him and ensure his crew had a great day.”
Fiveland explained, “I had talked to Dan in advance. He was bringing his large dump trailer to haul away the old shingles. I asked him if we could take advantage of that and do a yard clean up the same day. We hauled away old coolers and tore down an old shed.”
It was a symbolic day of purging. Meyoung-Hee and her children cleared out unwanted and unnecessary items inside and outside the store as the reality of Jo’s killer’s arrest sunk in.
Fiveland sighed, “It is truly the unexpected that brings tears to your eyes. “
Dan Dick had the option of hauling the garbage to the Leduc dump 45 minutes away and simply dump the garbage or go to the closer Sunnybrook Station 15 minutes away and unload all by hand. Fiveland requested the closer dump station. “That is where Ed works. The friend of Jo who referred me to do the estimate five years ago,” Fiveland stated. “We took Jo’s son, Ed with us and Ed was able to tell Ed in person that his father’s killer had been arrested. It was so worth the extra work of unloading the garbage by hand.”
Another unexpected event occurred. Fiveland explained, “I had brought my weed wacker to trim around the building where we would be painting but I did not bring my mower.” As Meyoung-Hee fired up the store push mower and began mowing the half acre of lawn, the front wheels of the mower bent sideways and were barely hanging on.
Fiveland laughed, “What else could happen to this family! I live 20 minutes outside of Thorsby. Instead of making the round trip back to my house for my mower, I drove around the neighbourhood. I saw a husband and wife working in their yard so I stopped. I introduced myself and asked if I could borrow a push mower.” Fiveland giggled, “He ‘one upped’ me. He told me his name was Todd and he was a long time patron of Fas Gas and knew Jo.”
Todd drove his riding lawn mower over and completed the mowing. He has offered to mow for the family every week until they can get a mower. “It’s the right thing to do,” Todd responded, “Jo was always good to me. What is a few hours to help out his family?”
Dan’s crew consisted of a dozen high school students with an average age of 16. When asked how they came to work for Dan for this event, they collectively responded, “We all belong to the same church. Dan is our bishop at the Church of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon church in Wetaskiwin.” Six of the students had to leave at 3 p.m. They volunteered to help Dan on the day of their high school graduation supper and dance. Dan commented, “They are all a great group of young men and women; hard working and committed.”
The day turned into a multi-cultural experience. Besides melding religions and non denominational people working side by side, Joan Dick had prepared chili on a bun. While Meyoung-Hee had marinated beef to BBQ, a Korean dish known as BBQ Galbi. And, of course, as all good mother’s know, fruit and vegetables complimented the meal. It was a feast shared by all including Todd the unplanned arrival.
At the end of the day, as the tools were packed and the rest of Dan’s crew drove away, the Jo family took a moment to reflect on the events of the last two days. Jo’s son Ed had a wonderful addition. His girlfriend had flown in from New York Friday night. Sara commented, “I can’t believe it. You would not see this kind of generosity for a single family in New York. There is such a strong sense of community. People are just so nice.”
Kay responded, “This is just such a blessing. My family feels so much love from our community with all of their support.”
Ed stated, “I am speechless. I am just so grateful. These people don’t know us and are so generous. It makes me believe that there is still goodness in our society. Our society has been going through many tragedies recently and a lot of people are in pain right now. I hope our story spreads and influences those people.”
Meyoung - Hee had the final word, “It is indescribable. Every day since my husband’s death, I have a smile on the outside because of our customers. But I am always so sad on the inside. Today, after the news and sharing with these people, my heart is comfortable. Today is the first day that I am smiling on the inside as well. My family, we wish very much to be able to help others in the future as we are being helped right now.”
The Jo family is still in need of considerable financial support. As the roof has been shingled and the painting of the exterior begins, the family still faces the reality of digging up and replacing the fuel tanks. An expense estimated at over $500,000.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family: www.gofundme.com/thorsby-fas-gas.
- Submitted by Rhonda Fiveland