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Adam Wood, shown in a family photo, had only been teaching at La Loche Community School since September.The Canadian Press

The last time they spoke, Adam Wood was asking for a reference. He had applied for a teaching job in La Loche, a remote community in Northern Saskatchewan, and was hoping his former boss would be willing to put in a good word for him.

"He was absolutely excited," said Erin Beagle, the executive director of Roots to Harvest, a not-for-profit in Thunder Bay that works with kids. "He said he was applying for a few teaching positions … around Northern Saskatchewan and northern communities. It was a great fit for him … he was excited to see where that would take him."

Mr. Wood's long-time girlfriend was finishing her PhD in the province and he wanted to support her, he explained. He jokingly added in a Facebook message: "Note: I have nothing to do with the actual PhD. Just supporting her emotionally."

That conversation was a year ago this week and it would be the last time Ms. Beagle ever spoke to him.

On Friday, Mr. Wood was one of four people – two teachers and two brothers – killed in a shooting rampage that left seven others wounded. A 17-year-old male has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder.

Mr. Wood had only been teaching at La Loche Community School since September.

This past weekend, cars lined the street outside his childhood home in Uxbridge, Ont. A man who answered the door declined to speak with a reporter. Mr. Wood's family released a statement earlier saying: "Our family, Adam's partner, friends and community are devastated by the news," the statement read. "Adam was quite an adventurer, had a passion for life, and would often make you laugh until your stomach hurt. He was always up for a good challenge and lived each day joyously."

In a second statement issued Sunday evening, the family went on to say: "As communities come together to support one another, we must ask how to prevent anyone from experiencing a loss of this kind.

"Rather than looking for someone to blame, or coming up with outsider opinions of reasons why this occurred, we must stop and listen to the voices of La Loche. The leaders and members of the community know what types of support and changes are needed. Our responsibility as a nation is to listen and respond to create lasting systemic change."

Those who knew him describe Mr. Wood as a seasoned outdoorsman and farmer who lived to push his own limits, learn new skills and help others.

Joey Welch came to know Mr. Wood at Lakehead University. His wife, Signe, and Mr. Wood were both enrolled in the outdoor recreation parks and tourism program. They spent countless hours camping, canoeing and "travelling by dogsled with our ragtag group of outdoor-loving friends."

Before one such dogsled trip along the Ontario-Minnesota border, Mr. Wood took a course to learn how to craft his own wooden cross-country skis.

"My wife and I met Adam eight years ago in Thunder Bay," Mr. Welch said from his home in Northern British Columbia. "We shared a love for the North, indigenous cultures, small places and learning old ways of living. … He was a big fan of Wendell Berry [the author and environmental activist] and learning to live well wherever you lived."

Two years ago, when Mr. Wood announced he planned to spend a year living outdoors in a canvas tent – including through the winter – none of the people who knew him was surprised.

Instead, friends and family showed up to help build the structure, from its pallet-bed sub floor to the wood-stove installation.

Mr. Wood documented the event on his WordPress website, The Northern Pioneer.

Stephanie Campbell remembers Mr. Wood, a former boyfriend, as an adventurer.

The pair met at Tyndale Christian college in Toronto about a decade ago. "He was just always talking and reading about different things he wanted to do," Ms. Campbell, now 31, recalls. "He was always talking about Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Scouts. … He was always looking for something to discover. He loved the Narnia books."

They spent many dates geocaching – in which people around the world hide treasure, then post the GPS co-ordinates online – in the Greater Toronto Area. "[One hunt] at the Scarborough Bluffs was probably the most memorable," she said. "We wandered so far, we kind of got stuck in the lake and had to shore-climb rocks to get home." They eventually found some old French coins. They left behind a pocket knife.

According to former classmates, Mr. Wood graduated from Lakehead's teacher's college in 2012.