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On Betty Trushinski's doorstep, the two wooden ducks she named after herself and her husband Frank are as she left them -- small, heartbreaking details that conjure up the memory of a life ended too soon.

Mrs. Trushinski, a 56-year-old kitchen worker, mother of three and friend to many in this sleepy community of 4,800, is one of at least seven and possibly nine people who have now died after the worst municipal water crisis in Canadian history.

Her neighbours recalled Mrs. Trushinski as a decent person who took pleasure in friends, family and the rhythms of everyday life.

"You could say she was the sixth or seventh death, but that doesn't put a face on it," a neighbour said.

Walkerton's small size has made the crisis uniquely personal and sharply painful. It is almost impossible not to know at least one person who has died from the deadly E. coli bacteria that contaminated the town's water supply.

"There's a lot of hurting in this town," one resident said. "We've never seen anything like this. Who has?"

The tragedy has been heartbreaking in its human detail.

Among the dead is two-year-old Mary Rose Raymond, who died on May 23 in the arms of her mother, a local doctor. In her death notice, her parents paid tribute to "our precious little dancing girl."

"We are very proud of you," they wrote. "Daddy will always remember being called Father by his sweetheart."

There has, unfortunately, been no shortage of sad stories in Walkerton.

Robert Brodie, 89, who died May 24, contracted the E. coli bacteria through a twist of fate. He lived in the country with his daughter, on a property that had its own well, but moved into a Walkerton nursing home while the floors were being refinished at their home.

Mr. Brodie had been married for 57 years before his wife died two years ago. His daughter, Robin Clemas said her father was a healthy man. "He still had a few good years left in him," she said.

Until he was infected with the E. coli bacteria, Mr. Brodie had been planning a summer camping trip -- his life-long passion.

Laura Rowe, 84, died just two weeks after moving to Walkerton from Teesdale. A widow for two years, she had moved into Maple Court Villa, a local retirement home.

Two other residents at Mrs. Rowe's 56-suite nursing home developed E. coli-related symptoms and were isolated in their rooms on May 19, according to a statement prepared by JoAnn Todd, the home's managing director.

After the symptoms were noted, the home called Walkerton Public Utilities Commission, only to be assured the water supply was safe.

Two days later, when it became clear the water was contaminated, all food and beverages made with municipal water were discarded. The day after that, Mrs. Rowe was taken to hospital, suffering from diarrhea and weakness. She died on May 29.

Melville Dawe, a retired widower, lived alone in his home in Clifford, a farming community located about 30 minutes from Walkerton. A homecare worker visited him every day, said Carl Zimmerman, who lives two doors away from Mr. Dawe's house. Mr. Dawe was an avid and meticulous gardener -- his legacy is a manicured lawn adorned with numerous garden gnomes.

Mr. Zimmerman said he "doesn't believe for a moment" that Mr. Dawe's death was due to the E. coli bacteria. "My wife and I have been drinking the water here. So have the other neighbours. We're all fine," he said.

Edith Pearson, a mother of five who was married to her husband for 60 years, was described by a friend as a strong family person. Her family has declined to speak publicly on her death. She was 82. Her ashes were buried yesterday in a Walkerton cemetery.

Lenore Al, 66, a retired part-time librarian, was described by her family as a quiet person and an avid reader.

She died May 22 at the London Health Science Centre.

Follow Peter Cheney on Twitter: @cheneydriveOpens in a new window
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