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Friends and family shocked by suspicious death of Vernon man

Will volunteered at the Upper Room Mission where staff were devastated to hear of his passing.
Image Credit: Teresa Bartz
July 21, 2017 - 8:00 PM

VERNON - Family members have identified the victim of a suspicious death earlier this week in Vernon as Will Bartz.

Will, 50, was known by many in the community through his volunteering at the Upper Room Mission and his sudden passing has left friends and family in shock.

“Willy was such a kindhearted person,” his sister Teresa Bartz, from Manitoba, says by phone. “Everywhere he went he made friends.”

Will had been living at the Sundance Suites for a couple years, and had been in Vernon for about 10 years, his sister says. He called his family roughly once a week, and the last time they heard from him was Sunday, July 16, just a few days before he died.

“On the 19th (of July) I got a message from one of his friends saying I should contact the RCMP because they heard he might’ve been involved in an incident,” Teresa says. “Through various phone calls we finally had it confirmed that my brother had been murdered in his apartment.”

Police say the death is suspicious in nature and spent Wednesday questioning neighbours. The RCMP has not called the case a homicide investigation. There have been no arrests and police continue to investigate.

Teresa and Will’s father Zeke don’t understand why anyone would want to hurt him and are hoping for answers as the investigation progresses.

“They (RCMP) have been wonderful. They’ve phoned me every day and have been very open and honest. They’re working very hard,” Teresa says.

Will Bartz
Will Bartz
Image Credit: Teresa Bartz

She says her brother had a tough life, but always kept a smile on his face.

“Willy was hit by a car in his early 20s, and was in a coma for three months and in the hospital for a year,” Teresa says. “They didn’t expect him to live, the fact that he did was a miracle itself.”

Will suffered permanent brain damage and walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

“Until the police got to know him he would get arrested because they thought he was drunk or on drugs, until they got to know him and realized it was just part of his injury,” Teresa says.

She describes her brother as a free spirit and someone who loved to help others.

“He was disabled and he didn’t have much, but whatever he had he always shared,” Teresa says.

He also loved a good joke.

“He loved T-shirts with sayings on them. A lady at the Upper Room Mission said they’d sometimes tell him he had to go home and change because his T-shirt was inappropriate,” Teresa says with a laugh.

Lisa Anderson, co-executive director of the Upper Room Mission, says she’ll never forget Will — or his shirts.

“That’s something I’ll always remember him by. He’d always have a new T-shirt. He’d come and find me and say ‘I’ve got a new one today,’” Anderson says. “He was always smiling and had a great sense of humour.”

Will used the services at the Mission, and gave back by volunteering at the Dollar Bin Thrift Store and in the main building, always offering to open doors or carry a heavy box for staff, Anderson says.

“He seemed like he was getting his life together and wasn’t needing our services as much. He’d stop in to say hi to the staff and volunteers,” Anderson says. “He was loved by so many people. He was always smiling and happy and that’s how I’ll remember him.”

Teresa says there will be a celebration of life for Will sometime in August. She plans on giving his numerous T-shirts away to his friends, or his "Vernon family" as she calls them.

Anyone with information regarding Will's suspicious death is asked to contact the Vernon RCMP at 250-545-7171 or via Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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