06.03.1995 - Toronto Star

Lynda Hurst

Wendy Newbigging died in sunshine on a Caribbean beach. But she was buried yesterday as thick snowflakes fell on a small Woodbridge churchyard and a lone piper accompanied the mourners to her grave.

She'd sung in the junior choir at Christ Church Anglican when she was a child. Now about 400 relatives and friends packed the church and parish hall to say a premature, still stunned, good-bye to Newbigging, "the girl with the bubbles."

Just nine days before, she'd been picnicking with her parents, sister and a brother on a secluded beach in Antigua when a man darted out from the trees, yelled "Surprise," and grabbed for her bag.

She clutched at it, and the man shot her point blank in the heart. She died in the arms of her father, Dr. Peter Newbigging, as the man ran off.

Newbigging was 26 - the same age as Michael Mason, who was arrested by Antiguan police on Feb. 25 and is expected to be tried in May for first-degree murder. He now faces premature death - by execution.

The entire staff of the Antiguan consulate in Toronto attended the hour-long funeral and communion service. "We're here out of sympathy and concern," said vice-consul Guy Yearwood, "and to show we'll do everything possible to help."

Rev. John Thompson described Newbigging, a University of Toronto English graduate, as "a woman of many delights who brought joy and gladness" to those around her. Her death, he said, was "harsh, meaningless and cruel. It was not God's will that she should be shot and killed." Thompson said nothing in life hurts as much as the death of a daughter or son. "It sends a knife into our hearts to know that 'They shall not grow old as we grow old. Age cannot wither them....' We'd give anything to substitute our lives for theirs."

Wendy's family would meet her again one day in heaven, he said, "and she'll probably still be blowing bubbles."

That reference was to Newbigging's habit of carrying bubble mix with her at all times.

"The bubbles were a real friend-maker," said Susan Snell, who lived next door to the Newbigging family. "She was a gentle person who didn't see the bad in anyone."

Friend Cary Moretti delivered his eulogy in the form of a letter to Wendy, smilingly reminding her of the time they'd been kicked out of a downtown hotel for blowing bubbles on the escalator; of the times they talked into the night about God and the nature of good and evil; of the postcard she sent him from Antigua.

Newbigging's younger sister Susan, 24, said it was impossible to express in words what her sister meant to the family:

"It's also unnecessary because the love and support we have received in recent days says more about Wendy than I ever could."

Outside, in the graveyard attached to the church, the mourners circled Newbigging's final resting place. At the end of the brief interment service, her six honorary pallbearers drew out bubble-makers.

They each blew eight bubbles because, said one, "eight means eternity."

"Wendy did this at a friend's funeral we were both at," said Jenny Kohn. "It's a gesture of jubilance. Just look at the rainbow of colors."

As the crowd walked away and the snowflakes started to lift, Wendy's bubbles shimmered and floated in the air.

[wendy's home page]