Remembering Erissa through Dave’s eyes

Erissa’s long time partner Dave has had an opportunity to compose his thoughts and memories of Erissa and asked that we help share them on his behalf. Erissa was so much to so many people, for the BCGA she was our Matron, our biggest supporter and without a doubt our most enthusiastic member.

Hello Dear Family, friends and FB followers of Erissa Yong-Wilson.

​ I’ve been wanting to put something out there for a while. Quite frankly until now I’ve just not been able to keep myself together long enough to do this. I’m Dave. I’ve been Erissas’ partner, friend and most notably her baggage handler since about 1983’ish. Some of you know me, others may not. First and foremost, to her family, some here, most in Malaysia and others calling various parts of the world your home. I can’t adequately describe how I feel and how you must feel at the sudden loss of Erissa. For her to be such a huge part of each of our lives and then have her presence suddenly vanish. I wish I could hold each and every one of you. Thank you sincerely and deeply to many of you that have found me and offered your condolences. Truly heartfelt. I recollect the many extraordinary and fun filled times we have had with many of you over the years. I must say it was a little disconcerting early on to find out that she was related to a long line of Borneo headhunters. I recall a trip we made to a tourist version of a tribal long house with heads prominently displayed in the main room. Erissa said ” See that? That could be you.” WTF? She had my passport. The term    ‘ sleeping with one eye open.’ That’s where it came from. Many times I caught her trying to sneek a parang into the house. Oft times I would stand back and watch as she got into a dustup with somebody. I’d wonder if they knew they were dealing with a headhunter. We were so much looking forward to getting back to Malaysia soon. As you know Erissa came to Canada in 1974 with Peter and her son Wilson. As she soon began to call Canada her home she never forgot her roots. She was a Malaysian girl in a far off wilderness. She struggled, persevered and eventually began to live her dream. To my Malaysian family I don’t know what motivated her initially but I know that each and every one of you inspired her to attain greater achievements. I am fortunate and grateful to have met Erissas’ father Jackie, mother Mary and her siblings Irene, Marlene, Peter, Ros and Paul. I miss you terribly. As well, equally as grateful to have met and spent wonderful times with her beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbours and various other townsfolk over the years. You all mean so much to her and have helped her in so many ways you don’t even know. I promise and look forward to sharing stories and fond memories in the times ahead.

To her many, many friends local and around the world. Friends that she has had the pleasure of being in the company of and those that she’s thoroughly enjoyed chatting with online. I know that all of you have made an indelible impression on her. You made her laugh, you made her cry, you made her angry, you made her happy. I’m just sitting here now recollecting some of the times that Erissa and I have spent with many of you and the countless stories we all could share. I will tell one story maybe some of you know. We were in Cancun Mexico many years ago. Erissa decided one morning she wanted to go skydiving. Now for someone who usually wouldn’t bother to go down to the mailbox this sounded like a bit of a stretch. Short story, she did jump, had a blast and didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the weekend. We flew home and that evening said ” I want to learn how to do that” I said ” What, learn how to skydive? ” she said ” No, I want to learn how to fly a plane “. Literally two weeks later she was flying a Cessna 172 being instructed by some very dear people, you know who you are. The rest, they say, is history. I’ve never witnessed someone discover a passion before. Sure, Erissa liked, even loved doing many things. But this flying gig, it took over her soul. Over the years each and every time I saw her park a plane, pop open the door and wriggle out it was like seeing a brand new more vibrant larger than life version of herself. Ahhh… the stories. I believe a true indicator of a passion is the desire to share it with others and to help others experience the same feeling. One of her greatest thrills and ‘reason for being’ was seeing the faces of kids that she had just flown around the countryside as part of a Young Eagle program or something similar. She really wanted to help light that fire in some kid. She wanted to give an opportunity to a young person who had that same passion. Of course many of you are familiar with Erissas’ motorcycling exploits. Another passion albeit more familiar to most ‘regular’ people 🙂  In Malaysia Erissa learned how to ride a bike shortly after learning how to dispatch and prep a fish, 9-10’ish? Her long hidden skills at motorcycle riding soon emerged after bumping into bonehead me. After a few years of kickin’ around on various sport bikes she was smitten by one of Harley Davidson’s models, the V-Rod. The rest they say…….. Many motorcycling adventures to share!! 🙂

When the RCMP knocked on our door that evening I almost fell to the floor. Erissa had texted me about 3 hours earlier with a picture saying she’d be back in an hour or so. Usually she’d return from somewhere then go out for dinner and show up later. I hadn’t been too concerned. I argued with the officers saying they’ve made a mistake. it can’t be. For the rest of the night into the next day I couldn’t accept it. As reality eventually began clawing its way in over the next few days I began thinking of all the people, her family, her friends. I know all of you have gone through some degree of loss, despair. Many of our friends had contacted me very quickly and we continue to console each other and support each other through this grieving process. I’m sure others are helping each other also. If I may at this time, as many of you know there was a passenger in the plane. I’ve known this person for a few years. Erissa had taken this young woman pilot under her wing so to speak and was thoroughly enjoying their flying adventures. Mentoring and having an opportunity to support another woman pilot meant a lot to Erissa. This young women embodies what Erissa has strived to obtain. Strong, resilient, determined, focused with a little bit of goofy I hope. I know she will get through this traumatic time and she will make a mark on this world. Many people have called or emailed asking me if there is anything they can do, they’re wanting to express their condolences, where can they send flowers, etc. I know, as an old guy, we’ve all been there. I want to do something and I will. Erissa started a scholarship program with the BCGA. The British Columbia General Aviation Association. She wanted to assist young people to achieve their dream of learning to fly. I’m going to do what I can to keep her dream alive to help young people achieve theirs. I would ask that if any friends or family of Erissa wish to support a passion shared by her and like minded folks then the BCGA would be it. Donations are accepted. Please look into it. Another quick story. Forgive me if I get the details wrong, it’s been a while. I know she’s told some of you. During her early flying days when she was mostly doing circuits around CYPK she was up going around in circles one day and she was on downwind over the Fraser River. The tower came on to inform her to watch out for a Beaver heading west. She thought, as she said ” I’m at 500 feet how can a beaver get this high!?”.  That story never gets old. So many stories will never get old even as the story tellers will. I hope Erissas’ grandkid will be telling stories of her one day.

I didn’t mean to take up so much of your time.  I might like to share a story or two with you in the future, some fun stuff. If any of you have a story to share about Erissa please do, it’s how we keep people, things, ideas relevant. My best to all of you. I don’t know what to say that would make things easier. Maybe there isn’t anything that can be said. I know that I will miss her dearly for the rest of my life as many of you will. She was one in a million. One day after this whole virus thing settles down we’ll be able to get together, share a laugh, shed a te
ar, raise a glass and toast a woman, who against all odds, lived and discovered a passion.   FLYING.

Dave Wilson