Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 08/28/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
There were fewer than 100 people at the two-day traditional First Nations' funeral for Faron Hall, the charismatic aboriginal panhandler who became the most unlikely of national heroes.
But a wide variety of people were represented, from well-known politicians to the fiancée he had lived with for more than four years.
Mayor Sam Katz was there Tuesday evening at Circle of Life Thunderbird House during the all-night wake for the Homeless Hero who rescued two people from the Red River years ago, and then mysteriously drowned nearly two weeks ago in the same river. Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak arrived late Wednesday morning for the beginning of the funeral where he spoke about the need to memorialize in some permanent way the caring man and what he represented to the homeless, aboriginal population and to the broader community. I like to believe Premier Greg Selinger, whose St. Boniface house Faron is said to have visited occasionally, would have been there too, if he hadn't been out of town on official business. Some of Faron's homeless friends showed, though; grieving his loss in ways most of us will never live hard enough or close enough to truly understand.
Of course the women from Old St. Boniface who became friends by simply giving him a place to sleep were there for him again. There was also a 49-year-old man who hadn't been in contact with Faron since Grade 8, when they were foster kids, and were sexually abused in a North End home where they were sexually abused and kept in the basement with three other aboriginal boys.
But of all the stories from family, friends, politicians and panhandling acquaintances, there was one woman -- Debbie -- whose revelation about their long-standing romance surprised almost everyone when she decided she needed to tell people what few knew.
"They called him the Homeless Hero," she said, "but he wasn't homeless."
For the last four-and-a-half years, Debbie said, Faron had been living in her home near the Provencher Bridge.
Debbie is 55 and now struggling with the loss of the man she grew to admire and love.
"Our life was a private life," Debbie said. "That was between him and me and that's the way I wanted to keep it."
Which suggests why she only wants to be known here by her first name.
Yet, their relationship wasn't a secret to those close to Faron. Among others, I knew about Debbie, and had even seen her from afar. Faron had given me her phone number to contact him.
What I didn't know was how long they had been together or the depth of the relationship.
They met, Debbie would explain later in more detail, back in 2009 after she read the initial newspaper accounts of the Homeless Hero's first rescue, was intrigued by who he seemed to be, and invited him over.
"We bonded," she said. "And he didn't want to leave."
But he did.
Faron would still disappear from "home" to join his homeless friends.
"He was always worried about them and he would go check up on them."
That was who Faron was.
A complicated, caring man who wanted to live a simple life.
But it wasn't so simple. In the course of panhandling and being drunk on the street, he would land in different kind of home: jail. First for what appeared to be an unintentional assault. Then for breaching court orders against by being drunk in public.
When he left home for the riverbank, Debbie would ask why.
"Why would you sleep outside instead of in a warm bed?" she would ask.
"It's a lifestyle," Faron would tell her.
"I couldn't change him," Debbie said, "and I didn't want to change him."
And then on a Thursday two weeks ago, he kissed her goodbye and left again. The next day Debbie said she got a bad feeling in her heart.
She went searching the next day and found his clothes and shoes neatly placed by the river camp he kept near Waterfront Drive.
For the next three days, she and his homeless friends searched for Faron. On Monday morning she contacted police. Two officers arrived at her door. And that's how she learned Faron wouldn't be coming home again.
They planned to be married next month. Faron had proposed, Debbie said, and she had picked the time.
Later, I drove Debbie to the graveside ceremony at Brookside Cemetery where Faron was buried next to his uncle, Wilson Hall. On the way back to St. Boniface, I asked Debbie what she thought Faron would have said if he had seen everyone who turned out to send him on his journey to the place he believed we will all call home one day.
"'Stay safe,' " Debbie responded. "He said that to everyone. 'Stay safe. '"
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2014 B1
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Column a form of reproductive coercion
Trending that caught Doug's eye: World class women's soccer
A different kind of backup
A few tips for when you hit the trails
Sister's big mouth starts family fight
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Advice for a few people you might recognize
Setting up jobbers to get squashed
Surplus of sick day benefits
Pardon me, are you calling me a snob?
Farmers don't need to let dust blow away hopes
Too much of a good thing
Learning some new dance moves will have husband wanting to tango
Technophiles love to hate new CSI's cyberphobia
Actress happy to find herself the mane attraction
Perfect for patios
Race for the ages
Willy extension shows Bombers have changed their ways
Police engagement can foster hope
Conference Board hypothesis is flawed -- again
Privacy? There is tweet irony in that
Unflinching faith in a failed fiscal plan
End sham of a marriage and live the single life
A duty-free duty to travellers
After years of losing to Toews, Weise would welcome Hawks-Habs final
Conference Board commentary on NHL disregards too many exceptions
Whedon follows his own thrilling recipe, but Avengers sequel not equal to first outing
Liar, liar, pants on fire
Behold the beauty of Basset in a Box
Making the best out of a bad situation
Household of men can raise children
Short but sweet
Graduating U of M students showcase ambitious, promising new work in annual exhibition
Selinger's shuffle making the best of a bad situation
Program lets grads say yes to the dress
The poor and the rich both benefit when they share neighbourhoods
Bombers better off betting on Willy earning a raise
Unjust end for Yes Winnipeg's noble warrior
To thine own self, local actor stays true
A coupla bites with your cuppa?