Alejandra Rojas knew she’d found the perfect physician when she first met Dr. Walter Reynolds.
It was 14 years ago, when she didn’t yet know English. She walked into the Village Mall Walk-in Clinic in Red Deer, Alta., and handed Dr. Reynolds a piece of paper that read: “Could you please be my family doctor?”
“He respond, ‘Si,’” Ms. Rojas said. “Great, I thought. He speaks Spanish.”
Dr. Reynolds soon explained that “yes” was only one of three words he knew in Spanish. The other words were “beer” and “bathroom.”
“He made me laugh and that moment I told my son, ‘We have a great family doctor.’”
Ms. Rojas told the story at a vigil for Dr. Reynolds in Red Deer Friday night, five days after he was violently slain at his medical clinic.
Close to 2,000 people, including doctors wearing white lab coats and others dressed in white shirts, gathered outside Red Deer City Hall to honour the 45-year-old physician. Some sat in lawn chairs. Most were wearing masks.
Over the years, Ms. Rojas said Dr. Reynolds became a friend. He helped her when her mother died. And when she learned she may have to leave Canada, he wrote a letter of support for her and sent it to immigration officials.
“He was humble, caring and always understanding,” Ms. Rojas told the crowd.
Others talked about his dedication to his wife and two young daughters, how he loved to run marathons and compete in mud races.
Jonine Mostert said her brother-in-law had known he wanted to be a doctor since he was very young.
“He always knew he wanted to be of service,” she said. “Walter Reynolds was an exceptional human being.”
She said family members planned to watch an online feed of the service from his home country of South Africa, which he left in 2003. He and his wife, Anelia, first lived in Manitoba then moved to Red Deer in 2006.
Dr. Reynolds helped found the Village Mall clinic. He was working there Monday morning when RCMP say he became the victim of a violent, targeted attack.
One witness who had been in the waiting room told media that she heard cries for help and a man in the clinic had a hammer and a machete.
Police arrived within minutes. Dr. Reynolds was taken to hospital, where he later died.
Deng Mabiour, 54, was arrested at the scene and charged with first-degree murder, assault with a weapon and assault of a police officer.
Police have said Dr. Reynolds and Mr. Mabiour knew each other through the clinic but wouldn’t say if Mr. Mabiour was a patient, citing confidentiality.
Mr. Mabiour appeared in court via video Wednesday, saying he “doesn’t remember” and is sick and needs a doctor. His case was put over to September.
“What happened on Monday was something that was unthinkable and unimaginable,” Dan Cochrane, a pastor at Crossroad Church, told the vigil.
He urged people to remember Dr. Reynolds’s legacy as a man committed to his family and his patients and who made Red Deer a better city for being in it.
“We will not let the evil actions of one individual define our city,” the pastor said before asking everyone for a moment of silence.
People in the crowd then held up candles and glowing cellphones as a song was played by one of Reynolds’ favourite musicians, Bryan Adams.
When it was announced that Dr. Reynolds’s children, Juliette and Claire, couldn’t see the lights, those gathered repeated the tribute as the girls then stood on some stairs, hugging their mother.