William Medeiros. (Globe and Mail Update)
William Jonathan Steadman Medeiros
University student. Wrestler. Social-justice activist. Camp counsellor. Born July 21, 1997, in Guelph, Ont.; died Jan. 29, 2017, in Toronto in a traffic accident; aged 19.
When Will Medeiros’s life was cut short at the age of 19, those who knew him observed that the tragedy was made all the worse because he had such a bright future. But one friend put it this way: “He had a bright presence.”
That presence often took the form of helping the less fortunate. For a high-school assignment on poverty , Will sat down and talked with homeless people as they munched on burgers he had purchased for them.
While serving as student trustee on the Wellington Catholic District School Board in 2014-15, Will made a quiet push for gender-neutral washrooms. Motivated by the plight of a schoolmate, he approached the education director . Impressed by his sincerity and determination, she approved the plan and the washrooms were installed in each high school run by the board.
“He understood deeply the notion of respecting the dignity of all,” she said.
At Rainbow Day Camp in Guelph, where Will spent summers as a camper and counsellor, he managed to coax the first word out of a six-year-old, physically challenged boy who had trouble speaking. That first word was “Will.”
“Will’s energy, love and enthusiasm was a beacon of light for my son,” said the boy’s father, Abraham Uddin of Fergus, Ont.
Yet Will could also be a prankster and the class comedian. He once convinced a classmate that everyone was going to dress up for a special dinner at a gourmet burger joint . When the classmate showed up, he was the only one wearing a shirt and tie.
Will took a role in the high-school production of Guys and Dolls and a classmate recalls him bursting into Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah one day in class before surprised students. At the campus pub or the library at the University of Waterloo where Will studied arts, business and political science, he would entertain friends by suddenly dropping into the splits, a move he learned while earning his black belt in karate.
Will grew up in Guelph, the eldest child of Paul Medeiros and Laura Coulman. He was a renaissance kid with interests in wrestling, cross-country running, karate, academics, weightlifting, gardening, electronics and woodworking. At Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School, he was chosen most outstanding student in 2015, his final year.
Handsome with dark brown hair and eyes, he oozed charisma and a boundless optimism. “He was who campers and counsellors aspired to be,” said Jenn Harrison, manager of Rainbow Day Camp.
His goal was to become a lawyer and his favourite TV show was the Toronto-filmed legal drama, Suits. In 2016, he was among a group that placed second in the Undergraduate Mock Trials Canada competition. Close friend and classmate Connor Rupnow remembers him putting in long hours on the case. Will was anxious for the competition to end so he could bring his other grades back up, Rupnow said.
Will recognized that hard work got results. Jill Barlow, another close friend, still has a quote on her lightbox put there by Will. It says: “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”
Chuck Howitt is a friend of the family.
Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, visit tgam.ca/livesguide.