TOFINO – A mother of three who died just hours before her daughter’s wedding in Tofino, B.C., would have wanted the celebration to go ahead, says her twin brother.
Pat Doyle said his sister, Ann Wittenberg, was floating on a surf board with her 21-year-old daughter, Rachel Emon, Sunday morning when a wave pulled them into the ocean.
The 52-year-old fought to save her daughter, but could not save herself, Doyle said in an interview on Thursday.
The RCMP said it received a report of a woman in distress at the popular Long Beach surf location on Sunday.
Bystanders managed to get her out of the water and administer first aid, but the woman did not survive, police said in a news release.
Doyle said Wittenberg had travelled to Vancouver Island from her home in Ottawa for the wedding of her 23-year-old daughter, Victoria Emon.
The small, low-key ceremony went ahead Sunday despite the tragedy, Doyle said, noting that was exactly what Wittenberg would have wanted.
“My sister would have insisted that we celebrate,” he said.
Victoria Emon shared a number of emotional posts on Facebook, calling her mom a “beautiful inspiration” and saying Wittenberg had been excited to watch her get married.
“Just because I went ahead with it does not mean it was easy in any way,” she said in a post Tuesday. “I loved her so much.”
Wittenberg was a newlywed herself, having eloped in Cuba about six weeks ago. No one in her family knew about the wedding ahead of time and only learned of the marriage when she posted a video on Facebook, Doyle said.
He described his sister, who was older by 17 minutes, as a “late-stage athlete” who loved taunting her 26-year-old son, Joshua Emon, with her muscles.
She was also the pillar of the family and was devoted to making her kids and loved ones happy, Doyle said.
“That was her absolute joy,” he said. “That’s what she was to our family. She was always a smile.”
Now the family is gathering in the Ottawa area to mourn, though a full celebration of Wittenberg’s life will have to wait until her remains have been returned from B.C., Doyle said.
Everyone is emotional and distraught, but holding up, he said.
“Grief comes in waves. So you just have to let the wave go through you when it happens.”