Labrador friends of missing woman share their stories
As the search for Loretta Saunders continues in Halifax and elsewhere, her friends from Labrador are letting the world know that the 26-year-old missing woman is caring, intelligent, and full of life.
“Her heart is so open and big,” says longtime friend Joelene Pardy.
“She loved being with her family and her friends, being around her nephews and her nieces the most. Kids really opened her heart.”
Loretta Saunders has been missing since Feb.13. Since that time, Saunders’ car was found in Ontario and her two roommates, Blake Leggette and Victoria Hennebury, have been charged with theft of the automobile. Leggette and Hennebury have also been charged with fraud for, allegedly, stealing and using Saunders’ debit card.
At the time of the disappearance, Saunders was three months pregnant and attending Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.
Pardy, 30, was just 11 years-old when she met Loretta. The two were neighbours much of their lives in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and they stayed friends into adulthood.
“She used to be the little girl … a little innocent child with a skirt on with pigtails in her hair,” recalls Pardy.
“I’ve just seen her grow into a wonderful, intelligent, smart, beautiful young lady.”
Not surprisingly, given Loretta’s love of children, Pardy’s favourite memories of her friend are the two of them going to the beach with Pardy’s daughter Shyanne. Loretta would spend hours playing with Shyanne, throwing around a beach ball and splashing in the water.
“We would go to the beach with my kids. Her heart was open to children and family,” says Pardy.
Deseray Rich experienced Loretta’s kindness and compassion first-hand. When she was just a teenager, she was looking for a place to live. Loretta and her sister Delilah didn’t hesitate to welcome her into their home.
“When I came back to Labrador from Alberta, when I was 16, Loretta let me move in with her and Delilah when I had no place to live … as my family had a full house,” recalls Rich.
“I'm so thankful for her letting me stay there and, when she is found, I would love to thank her over and over again.”
“She is such an inspiring person and smart. I am praying she is found soon.”
Jenny Hope was inseparable from Loretta when the two were going to grade school in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Like Pardy and Rich, Hope remembers a kind and loving person, who made an invaluable friend.
“Whether it was in class, recess time, lunch time, or after school you would see us together. Growing up Loretta was such a sweet girl. She was very quiet and shy until you got to know her but very fun and happy,” says Hope.
“Loretta was the type of person who always had a smile on her face, very loving and caring. Loretta was also a very soft person, she wouldn't hurt a soul.”
Hope says her and Loretta drifted apart over time as their lives took different paths. But a little more than a year ago, the two old friends bumped into each other unexpectedly, and it was like they were still in grade school.
“I didn’t even recognize her at first, it had been such a long time,” says Hope. “She grew into such a beautiful person that I always knew she was. And when I realized who she was I nearly trampled her in excitement just to hug her.”
Full of ambition
At the time of her disappearance, Loretta was studying at Saint Mary’s University, with aspirations to, someday, become a lawyer. Joelene Pardy has always been amazed with how intelligent the innocent child with pigtails had become as an adult.
“She was studying to be a lawyer. Everything that she learned, she would bring back to Goose Bay on her summers … and she would tell me her experiences with all those things,” says Pardy.
“Loretta was very intelligent . . . her mind was just an amazing interpretation of the world. Even growing up, she was always smart and very outspoken and always said what she thought.”
While many members of Loretta’s family have made the trip to Halifax to aide in the search, there has been an outpouring of support from Labrador and across the country.
An online fundraiser called “Help Find Loretta Fund” has raised more than $13,000 since Feb.19. The money will assist the family for their travel, and other expenses associated with the search for Loretta.
On Sunday, Feb.24, The Labrador Friendship Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay hosted a Candlelight Vigil for Loretta. The vigil was attended by approximately 80 people and raised more than $400.
The amount of support shown by the people of Labrador has brought some comfort to those who know and love Loretta.
“Labrador is an amazing place filled with amazing people,” Says Pardy. It’s not surprising at all that they’ve come together as one when something like this happens . . .”