Heidi Stevenson was a wife, a daughter, an RCMP officer and a rugby coach, but according to those who knew her, her one true calling in life was becoming a mom.
“She cherished Connor and Ava, and they cherished her,” reads Stevenson’s obituary, published Thursday.
“When she spoke of Connor and Ava, her eyes lit up. When she stood next to them, she had her arms around them. When she cheered them on at hockey games, she cheered the loudest. And when she tucked them into bed at night, she always took the time to cuddle and review their day.”
Stevenson died in the line of duty on April 19, one of 22 people killed during a shooting rampage in multiple rural Nova Scotia communities. She was a 23-year veteran of the force.
“There are no words to describe the pain,” said Nova Scotia commanding officer Lee Bergerman.
“Two children have lost their mother, and a husband has lost his wife. Parents have lost their daughter, and countless others lost an incredible friend and colleague.”
Strong, independent girl
Stevenson grew up in Antigonish, N.S. Her loved ones described her as a smart, independent girl who always stood up for herself. She was an active member of the local 4-H club and an avid reader and baker.
“Her parents, Avon Brophy and David Burkholder, taught her from a very young age to embrace her creativity, be open-minded and to always be herself,” reads her obituary.
“She carried these traits with her through life and because of them was always up for a challenge or to try something new.”
Stevenson attended Acadia University and graduated with a bachelor of science in 1993. That’s where she became interested in rugby — a sport she would later coach as part of her dedication to inspiring young girls and giving back to her community, according to family. University was also where she developed a passion for policing, working part time with campus security.
“Heidi loved her chosen career. There was no doubt in her mind when she graduated from Acadia that her next step was going to be the RCMP,” the obituary continues.
“Reaching that goal wasn’t always easy but her incredibly strong work ethic, driven personality and resilient nature got her to exactly where she wanted to be.”
During her 23-year career, Stevenson took on many different roles with the agency, including a role with the Musical Ride — a job she took without knowing how to ride a horse, her obituary noted.
She also did general duty, community policing, communications and training and worked as a drug recognition expert at headquarters.
Chris Williams trained with Stevenson at RCMP boot camp back in 1995. He tells Global News what he’ll remember most about his fellow troopmate is her smile.
“She had an absolutely infectious smile that would light up the room and that you could see from a mile away,” said Williams, now retired in Kelowna, B.C., after 22 years with the Mounties.
“It didn’t matter how much stress she was under, what was going on — that smile would be constant.”
He and Stevenson were members of Troop 11 while attending RCMP depot in Regina. Following graduation, he said they kept in touch occasionally via social media.
“Obviously now, I wish I could go back and have more time to share with her, but I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of her life and to have her as a part of mine.”
In describing Stevenson, Williams said she had a great personality, and was laid back and fun-loving.
‘The most beautiful smile’
Stevenson met her husband Dean while working as a high school liaison officer at Cole Harbour District High School in 1997. What first attracted Dean to Heidi was “the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen.”
“Their connection was strong from the start and eventually led them to pause their careers and take a one-year leave of absence to focus on each other and teach English in Japan,” reads Stevenson’s obituary.
“Their life together has truly been filled with love, laughter and adventure.”
According to her obituary, the couple cherished family ski trips, beach walks in Prince Edward Island and one-hour kid-free interludes for a glass of red wine.
“The feel of her hand holding his, the way she called him ‘hon’ and the gentle pecks on the cheek she’d give as she snuck off to work in the morning will be held in Dean’s heart forever,” reads Stevenson’s obituary.
‘Made an impact on this world’
Stevenson is described as the neighbour who waved at everyone, the busy parent who volunteered at school, the friend who delivered cinnamon buns and homemade bread and a second mom to kids who came over to play.
“She was the gentle smile when you needed it most. Heidi made an impact on this world and words can’t begin to express how much she will be missed,” reads her obituary.
Her family plans to hold a private service soon. A proper celebration of her life will be planned at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, loved ones are asking people to consider donating to the RCMP Foundation.