HALIFAX – The victim of a fatal vehicle-cyclist collision in Dartmouth is being remembered by her family as a vivacious, thoughtful and positive person.
Johanna Dean, 30, died last Wednesday while cycling. A truck driving alongside her at the intersection of Albro Lake Road and Windmill Road in Dartmouth tried to make a right turn, and the two collided. She died at the scene.
The avid cyclist taught French immersion to students in Grades 1 and 2 at St. Catherine’s Elementary School.
“She was known as a fantastic teacher. She [would] turn the class around and make them go leaps and bounds ahead of where they should be,” said sister Julie Dean, Johanna’s identical twin.
On Monday, her family spoke with Global News prior to Johanna’s wake, saying they wanted her to be remembered for her full life rather than how she died.
“Johanna was the centre of every room,” Julie said. “She did have this energy about her that attracted people to her.”
“She was my roommate. She was my best friend and my soulmate.”
Julie said Johanna had been cycling her whole life but had been doing it more actively for the past five years.
“[It] was a way to work out, but she liked it because it brought her outside. It brought her out to nature.”
WATCH: Extended interview clips with Johanna Dean’s sisters
Last Wednesday, Julie said Johanna had been taking a routine bike ride between her school and a second job as a waitress at the Armview Restaurant and Lounge when the accident happened.
“I knew something was wrong,” Julie said, recalling the day’s events. “I knew her routine and something was off. Her car was there but she wasn’t…it didn’t match up with the time of day.”
At around the same time, Johanna’s older sister Jackie was at their mother’s home when a policeman showed up at the door.
“He asked if Johanna Dean lived here. I said ‘No, this is her home but she lives downtown with her sister.’
“I was more curious than anything. Then I looked down and saw her bag,” Jackie said.
“He said ‘I’m afraid I have some bad news’. It was just disbelief. The bag looked like hers but I still didn’t believe,” she said, holding back tears.
“It was the hurt, the anger that someone who was literally at the prime of her life was taken.”
Meanwhile, another sister — Cherie — broke the news to Julie, and slowly friends and family came together to celebrate Johanna’s life.
They have made posters with pictures of her, which span across her time in the Brownies, as a cheerleader, her participation in a sorority at Dalhousie and moments with family.
The family says it has come to peace with the fact that Johanna died while cycling.
“It’s unfortunate what happened, but Halifax is a beautiful city and she wanted to see Halifax as much as she could,” said older sister Kelly.
“The fact she was doing something she loved is great. I believe it was a beautiful sunny day, so [that’s what] her last thoughts would have been…”
Sister Jackie said the picture of Johanna that will always stay in her head is one full of colour.
“She was just so sweet and energetic that it was hard to feel sad about her. She always made me feel happy and if I was feeling down, she was just so positive,” she said. “She would come in [to a family dinner] and just turn it around. We’d end up playing games. She could just change the room.”
“She just loved, and she just wanted everybody to be happy.”
Family members, who were all raised Catholic, said that the initial shock of Johanna’s passing is slowly wearing off and they have come to terms with her passing.
“She wholeheartedly believed when it was your time, it was your time,” Julie said. “We do certainly believe we’ll meet up again in heaven.”
“She obviously must have accomplished what her goal was when she accepted this path, this mission or this destiny here on Earth.”
“She’ll just always be a part of our lives. She’ll still always be with us,” Jackie said. “We all believe our spirits go to a higher place with a higher being and they’re still with us for the rest of our lives until we join up with them.”
The family plans to attend a memorial bike ride being held in Johanna’s honour Wednesday night.
The sisters say that don’t want cyclists in the city to be afraid, though they admit more can be done to improve cycling safety.
“Halifax is a great biking city,” Julie said. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done, just from potholes to the middle of intersections to making proper bike lanes and making drivers more aware that cyclists are part of the road.
“If there had to be a gift given back to Earth from [Johanna’s] passing, it would be that she would leave a reminder about bike safety because it was a part of who she was.”
“I know in some cities there are special lanes that have been created where cyclists are protected by an actual curb so it’s not just a lane on the side with a little marking. [There are] special crossings, especially at intersections where there is a lot of traffic,” Kelly said.
The sisters also emphasized they are not angry with the driver of the truck.
“Accidents do happen. The last thing Johanna would want is for anyone to feel grief or regret in her passing,” Jackie said.
Const. Pierre Bourdages with the Halifax Regional Police said they are continuing to investigate the accident and have yet to determine whether any charges will be laid against the driver.
In the meantime, the family plans to celebrate Johanna’s life with a bright and colourful funeral on Tuesday, one they say will match her personality.
“I think she’d be very happy,” a smiling Jackie said. “I think she’s probably smiling because it was her, just full of life and colour.”
© Shaw Media, 2014