One month after her mother was taken from her in 2016, Trisha Sheppard struggled to find the words to describe her grief.
“Truthfully it hasn’t hit me yet,” said Sheppard at the time, whose mother Anna was found dead in her home Nov. 12 in what police have deemed a homicide. “Denial. Maybe that’s the word.”
“Stunned is another word. How can that happen?” she continued. “I still don’t understand it. It’s not real. It’s like something you hear about on a show.”
A month after her death, family are remembering Anna Sheppard as a strong-willed woman, a hardworking single mom and a talented (though shy) artist.
Sheppard was 66 at the time of her death.
Candice Shearer, Sheppard’s son’s girlfriend, is facing a charge of second degree murder. Shearer had been living with Sheppard at the time of her death. She has not been found guilty of the offence.
It is the first time a murder charge has been laid in Dawson Creek since 2011.
Sheppard was born in Dawson Creek to a family of homesteaders. Her father, Harry Konopad, lived on a farm in the South Dawson area. Her mother Frances immigrated to Canada from Holland in the years after World War II.
Sheppard attended school in Dawson Creek. While she grew up in a rural area, she wasn’t a farm girl. Trisha recalled a story of her mother walking to school and being chased by a cow, a memory that stuck with her mother over the years.
Sheppard married young, and had two children with her husband Berry James.
The family was soon touched by tragedy: Berry developed an inoperable brain tumour that would claim his life at just 31. Sheppard never remarried.
To make ends meet during her husband’s illness, Sheppard began doing administrative work for a local doctor. It was the start of a long and varied work career.
“He had her working at home for him so she could be there for us and deal with my dad and his illness,” Trisha said.
After Berry’s death, Sheppard realized she needed an education to support her children. She moved the family to Edmonton, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree with a minor in education at the University of Alberta.
University was where Sheppard developed an interest in art. Over the years, she developed an extensive portfolio of drawings, paintings and photography. Horses and old homesteads were some of her favourite subjects.
After Sheppard earned her degree, the family returned to Dawson Creek. Sheppard found work at a local Catholic school, where she taught between 1986 in 1991. According to her daughter, Sheppard’s contract was allowed to lapse after she argued the school should teach sex-ed.
She went on to hold a wide array of jobs, including as a substitute teacher and oilpatch safety coordinator.
At the time of her death, she was working part-time at Walmart, mostly “because she was bored,” Trisha said with a laugh. “She’s worked everywhere.”
Sheppard continued to live an independent life in the lead up to her death, despite having recently suffered a series of heart attacks.
She had just started gardening, and was enjoying being a great-grandmother.
“This was not the way her life was supposed to go,” her daughter said. “She was just enjoying being 66—being able to have a garden, flowers, being a great-grandmother. She’s missing out on a lot.”