Saanich woman recalls husband’s fatal fall: ‘I looked down and he was gone’

 

As he tumbled over a 250-metre cliff to the water below, Saanich’s Joe Lescene called out his wife’s name. That’s the last time Sarah Jones Lescene heard the voice of the love of her life and her partner of 11 years. 

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“It happened so quickly,” said Sarah, who, almost two weeks after the accident, still can’t comprehend how a moderate hike along the Oregon coast turned fatal for the 51-year-old.

“I looked down and he was gone.”

The couple was hiking in Oswald West State Park on Sept. 10 when Joe lost his footing on a slope not far from the cliff’s edge.

Sarah said as she screamed for help, a park ranger responded immediately and called police, firefighters and the U.S. Coast Guard. She was initially told the chance of rescue was 85 per cent.

Her desperation grew as the search stretched into the night.

She said news that her husband’s body had been found on a beach on Tuesday brought a painful finality. “It was such a hard day,” she said.

Every day since her husband’s death has been an emotional roller-coaster, she said. Grief overwhelms her when she wakes up and realizes her husband is really gone, then she enters into a numb state when making funeral arrangements, and experiences a deep sadness at night.

The couple met 11 years ago through friends at the Irish Times pub. Joe, who was known for his dry sense of humour, made a joke to Sarah’s friend that fell flat.

They initially wrote him off but Sarah knew Joe was a good guy and wanted to get to know him better.

They went on their first date at the Moka House in Cook Street Village and quickly fell in love.

At the time, Joe was a hull technician for the Canadian Forces at CFB Esquimalt. After a year of dating, he had to deploy overseas on HMCS Protecteur and was away for a total of nine months.

“He told me to not be upset and not miss him too much,” Sarah said. “That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do now,” she said, as her voice choked with emotion.

The two married on July 1, 2012. Joe treated Sarah’s adult daughters, Ofelia and Sofia, like his own.

Sarah said her husband was incredibly close to his family — “they would sit on the couch touching shoulder to shoulder watching television” — and he brought that closeness to their family.

Joe has an identical twin brother, Frank, an older brother, Cleveland, and a sister, Barbara.

Frank said the two had the same group of friends and would often get mistaken for one another growing up. Joe was born in raised in Toronto but left the city for Halifax to pursue a career in the navy.

Frank said his brother was kind, generous and quick to help others, values which were instilled in them by their parents.

“We had two great loving parents and they just wanted the best for us,” Frank said. “They guided us through as we grew up, taught us right from wrong.”

Frank said the last time Joe visited the Toronto senior’s home where his 88-year-old mother Iris lives, he left a lasting impression on the staff members and residents.

Frank said his mother is having a hard time with the loss.

“Even though we’re 51, we’re still always going to be her babies. She just lost one of her babies,” Frank said. “It’s a big loss. He left us too soon.

A service for Joe Lescene will take place Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. at McCall Gardens Funeral Service in Royal Oak. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the Military Police Fund for Blind Children.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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