First-year student who passed away in WCH fire remembered as a “fun-loving, great guy”

The tragic death of 19 year-old Dave LaForest has left the Laurier community shocked and saddened, as it has been forced to say goodbye to a beloved athlete, floormate, classmate and friend.

Dave passed away in Hamilton General on April 19 after suffering critical burns in a residence fire.

Josh Windsor, Dave’s rugby coach, remembers him as a hardworking team player and a strong leader amongst his peers.

“I never saw anything other than positive things out of him,” said Windsor. “He was a good guy all around.”

Kyle Walker, Dave’s don on the fourth floor of Waterloo College Hall (WCH) residence, says Dave was a “fun loving, great guy … who always had a smile on his face.”

Walker happily recalls Dave’s outgoing demeanor, saying “he was the centre of attention, in a good way.”

Walker can remember meeting Dave on first-year move-in day when the eager economics student from Toronto inquired about whom he would be sharing a bathroom with. After Dave got over the initial surprise that he would be sharing personal space with his don, the two became good
friends.

“He really warmed up to that,” said Walker. “[My room] quickly became a home for him.”
Walker notes that the two spent a lot of time together, which included a trip to Toronto this past
January to see a Maple Leaf’s game.

“He was a big hockey guy,” said Walker.

Walker recalls some of Dave’s other primary interests, such as rugby, video games and spending time with his peers.

“He loved people. He loved being around whenever anyone was doing something. He just liked having fun,” said Walker.

Walker describes Dave as an integral member of the residence community, especially given his constant presence.

“The lounge is pretty much where everything happened in our community and David was always in there,” said Walker.

“That’s something I’ll always remember about him.”

James Popkie, who lived in the room across the hall from Dave, noted how difficult it has been for the community to deal with this loss.

“I can definitely tell it’s torn some of [my floormates] up a lot,” said Popkie.

Walker highlights that for him and the other 17 men on his floor strength has been found in numbers, as Dave’s peers have pulled together to help cope with the tragedy.

“We’re very fortunate that we did have a very close knit community,” said Walker.

While those who lived with Dave may have been confronted with the immediate effects of his death, Windsor noted that for the rugby team the whole situation has been a bit surreal.

The team has only been able to gather together on a few occasions – including the public memorial service held for Dave at WLU – and Windsor anticipates that his players will experience the biggest impact when they return for training camp.

“It’s going to be a real morale issue in the fall,” said Windsor.

Windsor noted that the team, in conjunction with Laurier Athletics, is planning to do something to commemorate Dave’s life early in the rugby season.

“Once we get back for training camp in the fall we’ll have some conversations around what’s appropriate,” said Windsor. “But some kind of memorial is definitely in the works.”

Windsor says that given Dave’s character and the tragic circumstances of his death it has been an especially tough loss.

“It’s always difficult when this kind of tragedy occurs, especially to someone so young at the beginning of their life,” said Windsor.

Dean of students David McMurray, who was at the hospital in Hamilton when David succumbed to his burn injuries, expressed his condolences to Dave’s family and his peers at Laurier.

“The loss has touched the Laurier community a great deal,” he said.

Walker echoed this sentiment, highlighting how difficult it is to lose a person such as Dave.

“He was an integral part of this campus,” said Walker.

“Anyone that dedicates and devotes as much time to different aspects of our campus, like Dave did, you’re losing a very, very integral part of the community.”

“I can definitely tell it’s torn some of [my floormates] up a lot,” said Popkie.

Walker highlights that for him and the other 17 men on his floor strength has been found in numbers, as Dave’s peers have pulled together to help cope with his death.

“We’re very fortunate that we did have a very close knit community,” said Walker.

While those who lived with Dave may have been confronted with the immediate effects of his death, Windsor noted that for the rugby team the whole situation has been a bit surreal.

The team has only been able to gather together on a few occasions – including the public memorial service held for Dave at WLU – and Windsor anticipates that his players will experience the biggest impact when they return for training camp.

“It’s going to be a real morale issue in the fall,” said Windsor.

Windsor noted that the team, in conjunction with Laurier Athletics, is planning to do something to commemorate Dave’s life early in the rugby season.

“Once we get back for training camp in the fall we’ll have some conversations around what’s appropriate,” said Windsor. “But some kind of memorial is definitely in the works.”

Windsor says that given Dave’s character and the tragic circumstances of his death it has been an especially tough loss.

“It’s always difficult when this kind of tragedy occurs, especially to someone so young at the beginning of their life,” said Windsor.

Dean of students David McMurray, who was at the hospital in Hamilton when David succumbed to his burn injuries, expressed his condolences to Dave’s family and his peers at Laurier.

“The loss has touched the Laurier community a great deal,” he said.

Walker echoed this sentiment, highlighting how difficult it is to lose a person such as Dave.

“He was an integral part of this campus,” said Walker.

“Anyone that dedicates and devotes as much time to different aspects of our campus, like Dave did, you’re losing a very, very integral part of the community.”

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