Brandon Applegate’s deeply inquisitive nature and captivating personality made him a leader in Saskatoon, according to members of the non-profit sector.
Andrea Cessna met him around 2015 while she was working at Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op. Her first impression was that the teenager’s “smile was too big for his body.”
Seemingly everyone at the alternative education centre knows him as ‘Smiley.’ Cessna witnessed his charisma firsthand, including the way he could acknowledge every person in any given room.
He was also a critical thinker who liked to have deep conversations. His questions were direct, but also exploratory.
“He didn’t just want to know the answer. He wanted to understand it,” Cessna said.
Their discussions largely focused on his community, particularly the issues facing Indigenous youth. Applegate was passionate about anti-racism and seeing young people get equal opportunities regardless of their backgrounds.
“We didn’t lose a 22-year-old boy. We lost a big part of the future of Saskatoon,” Cessna said.
Saskatoon police got a call around 7:20 a.m. Sunday about a main injured at a business near Clarence Avenue and 8th Street East. When officers arrived, Applegate was lying in the road at the intersection. He died in hospital.
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He leaves behind three sons and a step-daughter.
No arrests have been made.
On Tuesday, mourners gathered near the site of the 22-year-old’s death. They laid flowers and embraced each other.
Cessna moved on from Core Neighbourhood Youth Co-op to co-found and become the principal director of Chokecherry Studios – a non-profit art programming organization.
At Chokecherry, Applegate identified community issues and collaborated with his peers to find ways forward. Young people turned to him for advice on projects and the messages they wanted to get across.
Last year, Saskatoon’s Safe Community Action Alliance approached Chokecherry to work on a report regarding the city’s crystal meth crisis.
The cause was close to Applegate’s heart.
“He’s seen firsthand how crystal meth has impacted the lives of people he’s loved and he’s seen the way that it’s torn the community apart,” Cessna said.
Applegate listened to the youth’s input and presented the findings to a group consisting of city councillors, the mayor, academics and more.
“He was someone that could bring us together in a way that very few leaders can,” Cessna said.
Dave Shanks met Applegate eight years ago while he attended Nutana Collegiate, where Shanks was working. Despite an 18-year age difference, they connected quickly.
“Even when he was like 15 or 16, he was just really inquisitive and wanted to know why his life was turning out the way it was and what he had to do to shift tracks,” Shanks recalled.
Over the years, they had deep conversations of their own. Applegate wanted to break the cycle of children being raised without fathers.
“He was really committed to being the father that he never had,” Shanks said.
Applegate talked about his career aspirations, including law enforcement. There was also talk of social work or becoming a teacher. Together, they held workshops in places like La Ronge, Prince Albert and North Battleford.
Following his death, friends made plans to drive to Saskatoon, including from out-of-province. A memorial will be planned at some point in the future, Shanks said.
“Just making sure people are aware of who he was and that his legacy isn’t tarnished by this horrible event.”