SUDBURY, ONTARIO – The two boys will grow up listening to stories about their father and when the time comes, their mom, Katrina, will likely tell them about his days in Bosnia-Herzegovina (2003) and Afghanistan (2008), where he served as a sniper. But the two- and three-year-old will never know him. They have been left behind, too young still to understand the turmoil in his heart, the desperation shrouding his mind and the hopelessness that had settled in his spirit.
Jesse Tait, 34, veteran of two conflicts and a proud officer with the Canadian military, was reported missing on Jan. 20. OPP officers recovered his body on Jan. 22 from the Kaministiquia River near Thunder Bay. Foul play is not suspected.
Before joining the Canadian forces in January 2002 and being posted to Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Tait spent his formative years in Sudbury.
Dan DesLauriers was close with Tait. The two attended Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School together and were good friends for about 10 years.
“It’s just such a tragic loss; he was so charismatic – always smiling and always there to lift up the room,” DesLauriers said on Wednesday. “There’s no memory of him without a big, bright smile on his face.”
His military ambitions were “a big part of his life,” DesLauriers told The Star, and for as long as he can remember, DesLauriers said Tait discussed his plans to serve.
“I don’t think he would have chosen anything else; that’s exactly what he wanted to do,” his buddy said.
DesLauriers is still in shock and said he has yet to process the “surreal” loss of his friend.
“He was always joking around and playing practical jokes on people, and stuff like that – that’s just who he was,” he said. “He was a lovely and charismatic man. Anywhere he went, he was the light in the room.”
Those who knew Tait as a youngster have taken to social media to express their condolences. They paint a picture of a quirky, loveable, kind-hearted kid who was known to wear kilts to class on occasion.
“He used to get in trouble for playing the bagpipes on the bus,” commented one woman on Facebook. “We would walk up Tilton Lake (road) to get home. He carried my ridiculously heavy schoolbag a few times. The world is a sadder place without him.”
Thunder Bay MP John Rafferty spoke to the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon on Tait’s death. The following excerpts are drawn from his statement:
“He was a father, husband, son and soldier serving at CFB Shilo in Manitoba. All of northern Ontario and Canadians stand with the family in this time of loss,” Rafferty said.
“His family describes him as an ‘ambitious, hard-working, natural leader with a penchant for adventure, who loved nothing more than spending time with his two young boys.’ This tragic death serves as another reminder of the commitment and services of our Canadian Forces,” Rafferty continued. “It also reminds us of the duty we have as members of the House of Commons to those who serve, to only place them in harm’s way after careful consideration, and to be there for them when they return. We shall not forget Sergeant Jesse Tait.”
As Rafferty spoke, the House was silent and respectful – all whispers ceased for those few minutes. Following his brief speech, he received a standing ovation.
Tait was a national biathlon champion and private pilot, and was named brigade soldier of the year as a new member of the second battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He was also past-master at Brandon Lodge no. 19 and a member of Scottish Rite.
Tait is survived by his wife, Katrina; his two sons, Lochlan Stewart Larson and Watson Strong Douglas; his mother, Jocelyn; and his sister, Meredith Smith. His father, Stewart, passed away in 2008.
Visitation takes place at the Jackson and Barnard funeral home, 233 Larch St., on Friday from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A Masonic service honouring his life will be held in the chapel on Friday at 7 p.m. Tait’s funeral takes place on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Church of the Epiphany, 85 Larch St.
This story was published on Jan. 28, 2015 in The Sudbury Star