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Monday, 5 November 2018

Tragic Endings: WIlly Dear of Selkirk

© 2018, Christian Cassidy

Tragic Endings: In over a decade of blogging and other historical research, I have come across hundreds of stories about Manitobans whose lives were cut short due to tragedy. If they weren't related to the building or event I was writing about at the time, I sometimes bookmarked the stories with the intention of coming back to explore them in further detail at some point.

Information about these deaths comes mainly from newspaper stories of the day as, in most cases, inquest documents, court transcripts and investigators' notes are no longer available. This means that the information I will provide may include the same gaps in coverage or errors in reporting that originally appeared in the papers.

If you have additional information about any of these stories feel free to contact me at cassidy-at-mts.net

Wilfred "Willy" Dear of Selkirk, Manitoba (1955 - 1973)


Visiting the St. Matthews Anglican cemetery at Cloverdale in the R. M. of St. Andrews last weekend, I came across grave of Wilfred "Willy" Dear. Festooned with hanging flowers, patio lights, balloons, and even a soundtrack, (play video above), it looked and felt more like the scene of a back yard party.

It turns out that October 31st would have been Willy's birthday and the family had come to celebrate it with him forty-five years after his death.


Born October 31, 1955 at Selkirk to Lorne and Margaret Dear, Willy attended Earl Grey, Mapleton and Selkirk Central Junior High schools in Selkirk.

Soon after turning seventeen, Willy and Richard Jehle (20) rented a house at 307 Main Street, Selkirk, (now demolished). By May 1973, Richard's brother, Randy, also seventeen, was living with them.

May 2, 1973, Selkirk Enterprise

At around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 28, 1973 a fire broke out at the house.

Willy was in the bedroom and the first to notice the fire. He ran to the living room to wake the Jehle brothers. In the rush to get out of the small house, the Jehles made it before a rush of air or suction pulled the door closed behind them. When they opened it to get Willy, they found the room filled with thick smoke and flames and could not enter.

According Swampy Bjornson, Selkirk's fire chief at the time, the house was engulfed in flames when his crews arrived at 6:35 a.m. and it took 45 minutes to get the fire under control.

Willy's body was found later that morning in one of the bedrooms.

A police official at the time said that the cause of the fire was likely smoking in bed.


Willy's father, who also died in a tragic accident, is buried next to him.

Lorne Wilfred Dear's tractor was struck by lightning at his farm at Oak Hammock on October 11, 1984. He died later that day in hospital.

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