Aaron Thompson had a ready smile, a glint in his eye, and wrote poetry. To some observers it seemed as though a bright future lay ahead of him after he graduated from Alberni District Secondary in 2010.
But hopes for the future vanished Monday morning as Thompson, 21, lay dying on Redford Street, the victim of a stabbing.
“When I heard how old the victim was I worried that it was someone I taught,” Kama Callicum said.“Then my heart just sank when I found out it was him.”
Callicum found out about the death shortly after news reports on Monday. A mutual friend e-mailed her to say Thompson was the victim.
Callicum was a teacher at Alberni District Secondary School, and first met Thompson when he was in Grade 9.
She recalls a quiet boy who hurt below the surface but who wasn’t enshrouded with corrosive defeatism. “He wasn’t disrespectful of me, and he always did his work and handed in his assignments,” she said. “He was a solid C-plus, B student.”
Thompson had a difficult early life and lived with one of two older sisters while he attended school. “He said later he knew he was a handful but that he was grateful for what she did for him,” Callicum said.
“Aaron thought the world of his sisters.”
Former Port Alberni resident Sherri McKinnon worked with Thompson and his brother Archibald in an after-school program at Redford School in 2000.
“Aaron believed in fairness and had an inner strength that I admired,” McKinnon said. “He was mature beyond his years as a result of the difficulties he faced.”
McKinnon ran into Thompson at Canadian Tire last year. The boy she first met had grown into a young man, and he talked about the dreams he wanted to make come true.
“I felt that he had managed to overcome the obstacles he faced…and that a very successful future awaited him,” McKinnon said.
In high school, Thompson enjoyed reading and writing poetry, composing several pieces for a girl he was seeing then, Callicum said.
He initially thought his poems had to rhyme, but later got away from the practice and adopted free verse style, she said. “His later pieces always had emotion in them, and his way of expressing his thoughts evolved.”
Thompson graduated from ADSS in 2010 and attended a special First Nations grad ceremony recognizing aboriginal graduates.
“He was dressed in his suit and I’ll never forget the tie he wore with a design on it. He just beamed,” Callicum said. “He talked about wanting to join the military and he was hopeful for a future.”
Callicum lost touch with Thompson after his graduation but ran into him recently in Port Alberni.
He was smiling, friendly and positive and said he wanted to take classes at Vancouver Island University, she said.
“He is the last student I taught who I thought would ever meet an end like this,” Callicum said.
“It’s so hard to believe that this could happen to a kid who was doing everything right.”