PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - A memorial service was held Monday night to celebrate the life of a Saskatchewan woman who captured the public eye after she survived a brutal beating, a sexual assault and being set on fire.
The service for Marlene Bird in Prince Albert was attended by more than 100 people, including many members of her family and close friends.
Her longtime partner, Patrick Lavallee, who cared for Bird after she lost both legs and much of her eyesight in the June 2014 attack, was also present.
Bird died Monday morning in hospital from organ failure at the age of 50.
Ruby Bird remembered her cousin as a fighter with a strong and resilient spirit.
She also said Bird never lost her sense of humour — even after the vicious attack.
“She was a fun woman. I loved spending time with her,” Ruby Bird said during the service at the Full Gospel Outreach Centre.
“She was the most loving woman there was, but she was also cheeky. Very cheeky.
"That’s the woman I’m going to miss.”
Her daughter, Samantha Bird also spoke, and described Bird as a good mother who took care of her throughout her childhood.
“I have good memories of her,” Samantha said. “I hope she’s happy right now.”
On Monday, family friend Linda Lavallee said Bird had forgiven Leslie Black, the man who attacked and sexually assaulted her. But she was upset over the 16-year prison term he received in September, and the stress of the case affected her health.
"It was very hard on her, even though she forgave (Black)," said Lavallee. "She thought the amount of time that guy was going to get was never enough for the amount of pain she went through.
Black pleaded guilty in April to attempted murder. Court was told that after the attack, he walked to a nearby convenience store and bought candy. Black then walked past Bird, who was still on fire, and ignored her.
After the sentencing, Bird said outside court that she was doing her best to forgive Black, because "my mom told me to forgive people that do wrong."
Bird was a member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation. She is to be buried next to her grandmother in the tiny northern Saskatchewan community of Molanosa.
(CKBI, The Canadian Press)