Alberta man who died from COVID-19 remembered as a mentor and jokester

Click to play video: 'Alberta announces 5 additional deaths from COVID-19' Alberta announces 5 additional deaths from COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: On Monday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced five additional deaths from COVID-19 in Alberta. – Mar 30, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated on March 31, 2020, to include a reference made by Canada’s chief public health officer.

Alberta Health announced five more deaths Monday due to the novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: Alberta’s top doctor says province has 5 new deaths tied to COVID-19

The youngest was 34-year-old Shawn Auger in what Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam is calling the first reported case of a person in their 30s in Canada dying from the virus.

“The young are not spared from severe outbreaks,” she said in a news conference on Tuesday.

“Adults under 40 account for 10 per cent of hospitalizations and just yesterday, there was a first report of an individual in their 30s who died of COVID-19.”

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Auger had asthma. He became sick on March 13 and he was admitted to hospital five days later. He died March 30, according to officials.

His sister Kandace Lee told Global News that Auger was a loving husband, father, son, brother and uncle.

Auger was a transition worker at the Youth Assessment Centre in High Prairie, where he worked with at-risk youth. He was also a hockey coach.

READ MORE: Alberta’s top doctor says province has 5 new deaths tied to COVID-19

Lee said he was a mentor and a friend.

“He was a fantastic father, husband and provider. He went over and above for his family,” she said.

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Auger was funny — known as the jokester around the north, his family said.

Lee said his favourite thing to do was take pictures of people eating and post them on Facebook. This was one of the ways he liked to bug people.

“My brother was an amazing man. His dream was to open a group home in our hamlet of Grouard, which his wife and our family will continue to work on in his memory,” Lee said.

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The family shared a comment posted online from Auger’s friend and coworker.

“Shawn was one of the best men I have ever known. He has been my role model since I met him,” Shane Farnham said.

“Such a strong advocate for the most vulnerable, and [he] has been there for me and so many others through the worst times in our life. Shawn had such an impact on the youth that kids that left the program in 2014 still reached out to him to tell him how they were doing.”

Auger could make anyone laugh, Farnham said.

“He would do anything for anyone, [was] unreal smart, had your back in every situation, even if it went sideways… Shawn taught me so many things and could make anyone feel so supported and empowered they could do anything,” Farnham said.
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Auger leaves behind his wife and three children.

A GoFundMe page has been set up by a good friend of Auger, to raise funds for his family to pay for funeral costs.

“The legacy is his love for his family… and making sure that they were always looked after and provided for, as best that he could. With his passing, that throws everything into unrealness right now,” Matthew Willer said.

The money raised from the fundraiser will also go toward fulfilling Auger’s dream of building a youth group home in his home community of Grouard, Alta.

“He had purchased a property there. The plan over the next couple of years was to slowly renovate that up and then open it up to provide services to youth that needed it,” Willer said.

“That’s something that the family wants to keep going, to make sure that actually comes to fruition.”

In an emailed statement, Big Lakes County said it was informed Monday that a “beloved community members had passed away from COVID-19.”

Reeve Richard Simard offered his condolences to Auger’s family and friends.

“This news has come as a shock to our community, but I know our county will continue to lead with compassion and kindness. It is times like these where we have to rely on each other the most.

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“Big Lakes County asks that we all reach out to our neighbours and networks for the next while with compassion and support. We are all in this together.

“In the meantime, the county continues to take COVID-19 very seriously, and we encourage everyone to continue following Alberta Heath Services’ recommendations.

“We would also like to thank the medical professionals, first responders, truck drivers, custodial staff, grocery store workers, farmers, and everyone else who is doing their part to help prevent the spread.”

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