Neighbours rally after Saanich girl, 7, loses mom

Crowd fund site created for Saanich girl after sudden passing of 34-year old single mom

Phoenix Demski and Frankie were two peas in a pod, mother-daughter “girlfriends” who were constantly sharing the joys of life together.

But now, seven-year-old Frankie is without her mom, after Phoenix’s sudden and unexpected death at a Saanich farmhouse on June 16 – just two weeks after her 34th birthday.

“Frankie and I are devastated by the loss of her mother,” said Cameron Latimer, Frankie’s dad.

Latimer lives in Nanaimo and said he plans to relocate Frankie there.

“(Phoenix) was the most incredible mother that I have ever known, she was one of my best friends in my life. She is greatly missed and her help in raising Frankie is irreplaceable,” he said.

Frankie lived with Phoenix but would visit with Latimer on weekends, a community support worker for people with brain trauma in Nanaimo. Latimer said Frankie will live there in his two bedroom apartment.

“They were best friends,” said Phoenix’s landlord Shawn McLaughlin, who had been renting a one-bedroom suite to the single mom on his six-acre Pipeline Road farm behind Saanich Commonwealth Place. “They felt like family to me. I’ll miss having them around.”

The two had bunk beds and cooked off a hot plate.

Two days after Phoenix died from what appears to be asthma complications, McLaughlin and his neighbours started a crowd-funding campaign to provide Frankie with financial support for the future.

Latimer is also considering a crowdfunding site, to support Frankie.

“It’s a college type fund, to help with living expenses and everything that a mother would have put towards her daughter for the next 10, 12, years, and the rest of her life,” Latimer said.

Saanich Police Sgt. Steve Eassie confirmed no apparent foul play in Phoenix’s death. B.C. Coroners Service is determining the cause of death.

The Pipeline Road farm is also maintained by neighbours Joca Souza and Marianne Spalteholz, who have cattle and chickens on the property.

Spalteholz was passing by the house to milk the cows on that fateful Tuesday morning when she heard Frankie’s unsettled cries in the suite. Phoenix seemed otherwise healthy, the neighbours said. If her death is deemed asthma-related, which Spalteholz and Souza suspect, it puts Phoenix as one of about 250 Canadians who die from the respiratory condition each year. McLaughlin had seen Phoenix using inhalers but Spalteholz didn’t know Phoenix had such severe asthma, she said.

“It’s such an unfortunate thing,” Souza said. “Frankie was always outside playing, we saw her a lot.”

Phoenix’s birthday in May coincided with the completion of her addictions and community service worker diploma from CDI College.

“Phoenix was always teaching Frankie, showing her yoga moves, and doing all the things a mom should do. She was working part-time and was trying to find work in her new field,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin now hopes the cash raised through the crowd-funding campaign can be used to create a college fund for Frankie. He works at sea as a cook deckhand for Seaspan and is challenging his crew mates to donate as well.

“I never had kids. When Frankie moved in … I bought a trampoline, a swimming pool and a swing set for her (and another four-year-old girl whose family is living on the property),” McLaughlin said.

He fondly remembers Frankie washing fresh eggs at 25 cents per dozen on the farm before they were sold directly to customers onsite.

“I want to make sure Frankie is back in gymnastics if that’s OK with (her) grandma. And if so, maybe she can come back to visit and use the swing and trampoline again. I’m going to miss both of the them being around here,” he said.



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