‘Keep your head up and keep your heart strong’ were words Jonathon David Wood lived by.

The 33-year-old man was killed in Red Deer in the early morning hours of Saturday when an alleged drunk driver struck the taxi Wood was a passenger in.

His uncle and business partner, Travis Gangl, said on Monday that Wood was one of his best friends and since Wood didn’t grow up with a father, Gangl considered him his son as well.

“He was a very nice person. His mother is at my house and I was playing the song he played often at the office, it’s ‘keep your head up and keep your heart strong,’ ” said Gangl, referencing the song Keep Your Head Up by Ben Howard.

“He was always a glass half full guy; he’s a motivator for his friends. He’s a super-achiever.”

The oldest of five kids (he had three brothers and a sister) Wood’s family have come from all over Alberta to Red Deer to honour him.

“It was a very, very close family and they looked up to him in a big way, almost as a father figure,” said Gangl, who is shaken by the news.

“We have lots of shoulders to cry on.”

Wood grew up in Lacombe with his siblings and their single mom, Lori Church. Wood really wanted to play hockey, but he was unable until Grade 3 because of finances.

“Jon was a small boy at the time and he wanted to play so badly,” said Church, of Calgary.

“He’s out there, two years behind everybody and he can barely stand on the skates, but he goes out there and he ends the year scoring 20 goals. He was so determined, he stood in front of that goal and all the kids tripped him up and he kept getting back up. He was an amazing kid.”

Wood went on to Red Deer College on a sports scholarship.

“Jon has helped every friend of his, and when I say every friend — we’re planning a funeral for more than 500 people,” said Church.

“People are calling me who I haven’t talked to in two decades because Jon touched their lives.

“He’s the guy everybody called. You had a problem, you called Jon, he was an amazing problem solver. It made him a success with his friends, but also in business.”

A passion for the game of squash started four years ago when Gangl taught him the game.

“Now he was playing at a very high level in the province,” said Gangl.

Wood was ranked provincially in the sport and was a regular at Body Basics in Red Deer, playing almost every day.

Jen Schabot, general manager of Body Basics, has set up a memorial at the gym.

“He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back,” said Schabot. “He was a really good guy.”

Wood was participating in a squash tournament he helped organize in Red Deer over the weekend. After playing in a match on Friday night, he went out for a few beer and then headed home in a taxi.

“It’s the battle in our heads, he had a few drinks and does the right thing, he gets in a cab,” said Gangl.

“I was proud he would make that kind of proper decision — to be penalized for it is ridiculous.”

Gangl called the tournament the next day and informed them that Wood had died. The tournament was subsequently cancelled and all the prizes were donated to charity.

“As a family we have no hatred or feelings for the person who did this right now,” said Church. “We’re focusing on Jon and each other.”

Wood worked alongside Gangl in their business, Liquid Capital Alberta Crop., a finance business. They work all over North America and Gangl said more than 130 emails and texts have arrived from associates expressing their condolences and sorrow.

“I could talk about Jon for hours and days,” said Gangl, adding the family is planning a celebration of life for Wood.

“‘Keep your head up and keep your heart strong,’ that was Jon.”

A Brook’s man has been charged with impaired driving causing death after the collision that killed Wood.

Red Deer RCMP have charged 18-year-old Tyler James Wilson.

According to RCMP, an Alberta Gold taxi was stopped facing northbound at about 3:30 a.m., when a truck travelling north on 30th Avenue, at 32nd Street, rear-ended the cab.

The taxi was extensively damaged, and the pickup rolled onto its side, blocking the intersection.

Wood, the only taxi passenger, died at the scene. He was riding in the back seat of the taxi.

The cab driver was rushed to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre with what were initially thought to be serious injuries. He was treated and released on Saturday afternoon.

Wilson made his first court appearance on Monday morning. He returns on Wednesday afternoon for a bail hearing.

Source: Red Deer Advocate


Last updated on: 2015-04-06 | Link to this post