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Man behind slain women's song dies

Jack Cummer was grandfather of Pickton victim

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

December 28, 2007

Immediately after Robert (Willie) Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder, his victims' relatives played the song Missing outside the courthouse as a tribute to their loved ones.

The man behind the song dedicated to Vancouver's missing women was Jack Cummer, the grandfather of one of Pickton's victims, Andrea Joesbury.

Cummer died at Nanaimo General Hospital on Dec. 23, his wife Laila said in an e-mail.

Cummer had been very close to his granddaughter and spoke passionately about the disappearance of 65 women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

He asked famed Canadian poet Susan Musgrave to write the lyrics to Missing, and arranged for B.C. musician Brad Prevedoros and singer Amber Smith to collaborate on the haunting melody.

The names of all the missing women are chanted during the song, and it reduced most of their relatives to tears outside the New Westminster courthouse on Dec. 9, when the Pickton jury found him guilty of killing six of them.

Cummer wrote an e-mail to The Sun four days later, saying how pleased he was that the families played Missing to commemorate the victims.

"I felt that the poem and music were from Andrea to the rest of the gals. I was blessed to be part of it. Maybe, once in a person's life, they get to do something good," Cummer's email said.

His good friend Wayne Leng, who runs a website dedicated to the missing women, said Cummer was relieved Pickton's trial ended with the convictions.

"With Andrea being gone, he felt somewhat a sense of closure with the trial ending the way it did," Leng said in an interview Thursday from his home in California. "Finally, it was the ending of that -- not to be worried about that anymore."

Leng came to New Westminster to hear the verdict because he was friends with Sarah deVries -- one of 20 additional women who Pickton is accused of killing. (Pickton may face those charges at a possible second trial.)

Leng said Cummer's heart had been too weak to travel from his Nanoose Bay home on Vancouver Island to attend the trial.

Laila Cummer told Leng that her husband slipped on an icy driveway and broke his hip last Sunday, and suddenly died later in Nanaimo General Hospital.

"He cared a lot. He tried to get the word out there about why women ended up on the street," Leng said, adding that Cummer was always consumed by the loss of his granddaughter.

"He took it very hard because they were very close. She phoned him all the time, she always kept in contact with him."

During several interviews with The Sun over the years, Cummer, a retired salesman, said Joesbury ran away from a difficult childhood on Vancouver Island to the Downtown Eastside when she was 16. The young, naive woman was looking for love but found a lifetime of pain. During her last phone call before she disappeared in June 2001, the 23-year-old told Cummer she wanted to come home. She never made it.

Cummer wanted proceeds from the sale of the CD Missing to go to Haven Society, a Nanaimo-based non-profit organization that helps women and children escape violence and sexual exploitation.

Elizabeth Hume, Haven Society's former resource development manager, said Cummer strongly believed women would be victimized less if people spent more time with their families.

"He would get very passionate about families. How he wanted us to pay more attention to our families, to our children ... If we were to do that, that these sorts of things wouldn't happen," Hume said Thursday.

"He did make a difference because the people who got the CD were so touched by it. ... We need more people like that who can turn a tragic circumstance into a positive experience."

lculbert@png.canwest.com

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Pickton victim remembered with poem

A poem written by Jack Cummer in the memory of his granddaughter Andrea Joesbury, one of the six women Robert (Willie) Pickton was convicted of killing.

 

You picked a yellow flower and gave it to me

And I said, I will love you forever.

Every time I look out the window

I remember you.

You banged your knee and I kissed it better

You smiled through the tears.

I will remember you

You left for school

Fear in your eyes

You were getting ready

To leave me, I will remember.

Your love of him in Grade 1

A mate in life forever

Your secrets with your pals

Shutting me out

I remember.

As you grew, we drifted apart

You opened your heart

And I was too busy to listen.

Our wall grew a little at a time

I remember.

You could not share

Because I was not there

A hug, a smile, a little chat

Just might have stopped all that.

I remember the slam of the door

When your heart closed.

I had lost the key.

I wished I had listened to you,

Shared your plea,

A door closed in hopelessness

Resulted in our break.

Every time I see the flower

I remember you

And wonder what we could have done?

I put the flower in the window

It will not last long

But every time I look at it

I will remember my love for you.

Source: Haven Society website

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016