By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette — Our dear family friend, Yolanda Tremblay, passed away last week.
Some around here may have known her better as a member of the Campola family. Her sister, Rhonda, used to own the old All Tucked Inn bed and breakfast on Third Street. She lived there with their mom, Jean. Yolanda and her husband, David Trem-blay, lived next door.
Several years ago, the Campolas and the Tremblays moved out west to make a new start in the quaint ocean-side community of Newport, Ore. The family purchased Green Gables, a glorious inn overlooking the beach.
The moment I took in the amazing view of the Pacific Ocean from the main suite on the inn’s upper floor, I understood why the Campola-Tremblay clan uprooted their lives in favor of West Coast living.
Our one and only trip to visit came in 2007. My then wife-to-be, Kimberly, took the traditional route, flying a commercial airliner to Oregon in a matter of hours.
My intense fear of leaving Mother Earth prompted me to join Yolanda’s truck-driving, guitar-playing husband, Dave, on the road trip of a lifetime — a week-long journey that took me from the confines of tiny Dunkirk to Newport by way of Indiana, Texas, Arizona, California and a half dozen or so states in between. It was the stuff of travel legend, the kind of adventure that makes you appreciate just how much natural beauty there is beyond Niagara Falls.
After a week or so of some of the best vacation days we ever spent, I prepared to leave Oregon for the return trip home. The day we were to leave, we learned about the unfortunate and shocking passing of my brother-in-law, Nick Abbata. He laid down to take a nap and never got up. He was only 57 at the time.
All the way back I thought about Nick and his place in our family and in my own life. I wrote, through tears, a eulogy that I read proudly upon our return.
Odd then that I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out what to say about the loss of another of our dearly departed family members, a woman in Yolanda Tremblay who was not our flesh or blood, but a sister and an aunt just the same. The fact that she left us while living so far away makes it harder to deal with her loss.
There are no words, no satisfactory way to sum up what she meant to us.
“Yo,” as we affectionately called her, was a special person in so many ways to so many people. Her laugh was as big and as great as her quick wit and sense of humor. While often quick with praise or a kind word, she also took pride in telling it like it was. She gave honest, straight-forward advice. She offered real support when it was needed most.
To Kimberly, she was a cherished confidante, a friend through thick and thin, someone with whom to share the most intimate details of this sometimes challenging and difficult life. I met Yo through Kimberly who met her many years earlier when they worked together in the Falls. They shared a love for many things, among them the television show, “Sex in the City,” something Yo hooked Kimberly on one evening when the two of them locked themselves in a room, leaving Dave and I alone to play the guitar and bongos while belting out our favorite Eagles and Pearl Jam tunes.
It was one of many unforgettably fun nights we shared together.
We were, right from the day we were all first introduced, fast friends. Over the years, we grew into soul sisters and brothers. The four of us were practically inseparable when we all lived together here. We did our best to stay in touch after Yo and Dave moved out to Oregon.
It’s hard, what with the distance and all, to stay as close. But the friendships never faded.
I admired Yo’s love for a great debate and was always up for the challenge. She was knowledgeable and articulate, able to stand toe-to-toe with me or anyone when it came to countless subjects — the government, politics, religion, human nature.
She shared a beautiful prayer with Kimberly before our wedding day. It was as if she blessed us right then as we had perfect weather, a memorable ceremony and an absolute blast at our reception. Our only regret: Our dear friends Yo and Dave couldn’t make it.
My last conversation with Yolanda involved a sobbing apology as she tried, desperately, to explain how sad she was that financial and other circumstances wouldn’t allow her and Dave to make the trip back east for the big event.
I tried my best to assure her that it was OK and we understood. We did. We honestly did.
We were planning to start saving some money, a bit here and there, to finance our own trip to Oregon.
This cruel universe doesn’t care much for plans sometimes. I’m left now to think we should have started saving sooner.
Now, sadly, it’s too late. Our friend, Yolanda, is gone, just like that, mere days shy of her 49th birthday.
My sister, Wendy, reminded us that while it is sad to know Yo is no longer with us, it’s important to remember that we were blessed to have her in our lives while we did.
She’s right, of course, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Losing people is never easy.
Dealing with the loss of someone like Yo feels unbearable.
She left a great, big mark on our hearts.
Truly special people with kind spirits and robust personalities always do.Contact City Editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.