When Evelyn McDonald was serving coffee to a group of strangers in Likely while the rest of the Cariboo was evacuated during the 2017 wildfires, she never expected who she would encounter.
It’s a story that begins in 2014, when McDonald’s son, Greg, went missing.
“I was in Alberta at the time, and I lived there, and I got a phone call from the Chilliwack transit company that his cell phone and belongings were found on a bus, but that no one could find him.”
At the time, her son was addicted to drugs and to be so far away when he was missing was tough on McDonald.
She called the RCMP and ended up on the phone with Const. Brad Rendall.
“He was the one I dealt with from the beginning. He started the fire and he was just a kind, kind fellow. He went above and beyond calling me every day to give me updates,” she said.
Two weeks later she got a special call from Rendall.
“He said, just one second, and passed the phone over to my son. He took him to a detox clinic and made sure he was alright,” said McDonald. “It was pretty amazing.”
She said that was the first step on her son’s path to sobriety, and would send Rendall an update on the anniversary every year to thank him for everything that he had done.
Three years later, McDonald had moved to the Cariboo. Originally visiting Anahim Lake, (because she wanted to see where Carey Price was from), McDonald fell in love with the place.
When the fires started last July, and McDonald heard there were RCMP being brought from all over the area, she sent an email to Rendall telling him he was welcome in their home if he was ever in the area.
She said he responded with “My boss said I am too old and crotchety to be sent out.”
In an unusual move for McDonald and her husband, she said they headed down to the Likely Lodge one evening to watch the fights.
“All of a sudden the RCMP officers came in,” she said. “I was making coffee and just yacking away, and out of curiosity I asked if anyone was here from Chilliwack.”
The officers pointed out a very tall man.
“I said do you happen to know Brad Rendall? He pointed to his name tag, and I said, ‘What?’
“He said, ‘I’m Brad Rendall’ and I started crying.”
She introduced herself as Greg’s mom, and started talking.
“I was finally able to say thank you in person,” she said.
“It was amazing to say thank you to his face — Well, I stood on a chair.”
She counts it as one of the best things that has ever happened to her.
“You can say to someone thank you so many times via internet and email, but to actually meet him in person was the greatest thing ever. To look him in the eyes and say thank you. This whole thing has come full circle and something that started out so tragically has the best ending.”
She sent a letter to the RCMP afterwards, retelling the story, and nominating Rendall for any type of award that would fit the circumstance.
In June, Rendall was honoured for his compassion, thanks to McDonald’s nomination, and McDonald herself was given a Challenge Coin, to celebrate her acknowledgment.
“It was pretty neat,” said McDonald. “There was good that came out of the fires for us.”