By RYAN THORPE
The passing of Amber Lea Wise has left a hole in the lives of those who loved her which will never be filled.
Amber, a graphic design student at Niagara College, called her father as she was leaving the Welland campus on Friday, Feb. 10.
“I told her to be careful driving because the weather was crappy,” said Amber’s father Steven Wise. “It was that icy freezing rain that day and she told me she would be and hung up.”
At some point during her drive home Amber called her fiancé, former Niagara College student Roger Moore, through her Bluetooth headset.
They were speaking as she lost control of her car, crossed over into the opposite lane and collided with an on-coming Ford Explorer.
“He was on the phone with her,” said Steven, “He said he heard the crash, he heard the accident on the phone, which was horrible.”
As soon as he heard the accident, Roger jumped into his car with a winch and a rope, as he had some idea of where she was at the time of the collision. When he arrived at the scene of the crash, Amber had already been taken to a local hospital by ambulance.
He called Steven and informed him of what happened, before agreeing to meet at the hospital.
“When we got there we sat down in the waiting room,” said Steven. “We didn’t see her. They put us into a room she wasn’t in, so I had a feeling. Something felt off. I knew something wasn’t good there.”
He continued: “The doctor came in and closed the door. I looked at the doctor’s face and I just knew. She didn’t have to say anything. It’s indescribable.
“It was basically like having the insides of your body ripped out. That’s the only thing that even comes close to describing the feeling. Your guts ripped out. It’s like having your heart ripped out. That’s not even close, but that’s along the same lines of what it was like.”
Amber was pronounced dead at the hospital. The other driver in the collision, a 44-year-old woman, was not injured.
It was a tragic end to a young life which began on Sept. 20, 1994.
She was 22-years-old.
A message of condolence on social media, left in the wake of Amber’s death, reads: “Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our heart and we are never the same.”
By all accounts Amber was a talented, generous and caring individual who had a tangible impact on the lives of those she came into contact with.
“She was a beautiful girl inside and out,” said Cole Paul, a co-worker at the office supply company Beatties. “She was caring, always bubbly, always had a smile to offer or an encouraging word.”
He continued: “She took a genuine interest in who you were and wanted to know what was going on in your life. Overall, she was just a beautiful person. Her passing has left a big hole.”
A former co-worker who spoke to Niagara News described her as a “very sweet” young woman and “incredibly caring.”
Out of all the anecdotes and messages which have been expressed since her passing, a few in particular stand out.
One day a co-worker came into work and Amber immediately asked her what was wrong, as she could tell something was wrong.
The co-worker knew someone contemplating suicide and Amber helped craft text messages to the individual struggling, offering the names of counsellors who she knew did good work and passing along her personal cell phone number should they ever need someone to talk to.
She had also set up an online Facebook group for individuals struggling with depression and anxiety, effectively creating a safe space for people to talk openly about their struggles.
“She had dealt with the same issues and had conquered them,” said Steven. “So she wanted to help others with the same problem. I had no idea she was doing it, but it was something she set up to give people a safe space to talk about things.”
She also told her parents that her and Roger would one day buy a property up north and would build an extra home on it so they could join them.
“I had no intention of doing that,” said Steven. “But I just went along with it and said OK, that sounds good honey. She wanted us to live on her property, to make sure we were taken care of and eating enough as we got older.”
One message of condolence posted on the Stonehouse-Whitcomb funeral home’s website reads:
“I am at a loss for words. In 2016, I was diagnosed with cancer. Amber was a huge support for me. She messaged me almost daily, started a fund for me and my fiancé and was someone I could go to at any time. She supported me through it all.”
That is the kind of person Amber Lea Wise was.
According to individuals she worked with at Beatties, they are not currently feeling the loss of a co-worker, but a friend.
Following her job interview at the store, she spent the next hour-and-a-half introducing herself and speaking to the employees.
“The guy who interviewed her looked over his shoulder and couldn’t believe she was still there,” said Steven. “He was impressed…Then she came back up to him and said: OK did you decide to hire me or not?”
She spent just under a year working with the company part-time, growing her graphic design skills both in the workplace and in school. The company had told Amber that following her graduation, they were going to build an entire department around her.
“She was taking on more and more of our graphic design here, as well as for customers,” said Paul. “She had a phenomenal eye and it didn’t take her long to understand what you were looking for. Once she had that, every project that you asked from her was always exactly what you were looking for.”
Amber was excited about a school planned trip to New York City, where students would be going to visit museums and locations associated with graphic design.
“I was scared to death,” said Steven. “They were going to be staying in an area called Hell’s Kitchen. I was thinking, why does it have to be Hell’s Kitchen? Couldn’t it be someplace up on the Lower East Side? So I’m worried about that and then it’s a car accident. That ends up being what happens.”
Visitation will be held at Stonehouse-Whitcomb funeral home in Grimsby, on Friday, Feb. 17, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and again from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The funeral service will be held on Saturday, Feb. 18, at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Grimsby. Internment is scheduled to follow at Grimsby Mountain Cemetery.
In the wake of her passing, the flags at Niagara College were lowered in her honour. Grief counselling is available for students struggling with her loss.
She is survived by her parents Steven and Lea Ann, her brother Greg and her fiancé Roger.
“She immersed herself in life,” said Steven. “Basically she touched everyone she met. She connected with everybody. She always made the person she met, the person she spoke to, feel like they were the most important person in the room. And that’s the best way to describe Amber.”