Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 07-23-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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2 WOONSOCKET JULY 23-29, 2020 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION WOONSOCKET – Tanya Gagnon had everything going for her. She was smart and educated, with a new car and a good job as a case manager for individuals with dis- abilities at TILL Inc. in Dedham, Mass. Family members say she was independent and took pride in being able to support herself. "She had everything in order," said her sister, Tami Girard. On June 17, all of that came crashing down. Around 4 p.m. that afternoon, Tanya and her boyfriend, Charles Johnson, were discovered dead inside their Social Street apart- ment. Police believe Tanya was the vic- tim of a murder-suicide and that Johnson shot her and her cat before turning the gun on himself. "It was like a bad dream. You didn't want to believe it," said Tanya's mother, Sandy Gagnon. Sandy and her husband, Roger, said they never saw it coming. Tanya and Charles had met about four years ago and lived together for several years. They had recently moved into an apartment after sell- ing Tanya's childhood home on Diamond Hill Road. "Every time we saw them, they were happy, smiling," said Sandy. "Never even saw them argue." That morning, Tanya was sup- posed to take her father to a doctor's appointment before bringing her parents to Block Island. When she didn't show up, her mother knew something was wrong. Sandy called her sister, who went to check on Tanya in her apartment. She banged on the door, but was unable to get into the apartment. Eventually, the family called the landlord, who arrived with a key and uncovered the scene. The loss has been devastating for the family. Tanya's parents and sister remember her as a wonderful aunt and godmother who loved cooking and eating meals with her father. She loved doing things for her clients, they said, and had an impressive collection of jewelry that family and friends now wear in her memory. Though she had no children of her own, she doted on her niece and nephews, including her great- nephew, Isaac. Girard said the two loved doing activities together and had a "money tree" where dollar bills would mysteriously appear on the branches. Since Tanya's murder, those dollar bills have continued to appear. "He thinks Auntie Tanya's sending him money from heaven," she said. Tanya is one of the hundreds of women who die from domestic violence every year in the United States, but Girard is determined that her sister will not be just another statistic. She and her friend, Lisa Lajoie, started a Facebook page, "Behind Closed Doors," where people could come together after Tanya's death. Initially started as a place to share memories and photos, the page has now evolved to a group where victims can find support and share their own stories of domestic violence. "My sister is gone, but there's someone out there in her situation that when they get home, behind their door, the same thing's happen- ing to them," said Girard. With a mission of helping victims in similar situations, the family has planned several events honoring Tanya's memory. On Saturday, Aug. 1, they plan to hold a candlelight vigil at Barry Field at 6:30 p.m., with a rain date of Aug. 2. The event will feature speakers from among Tanya's family and friends and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. On Sunday, Aug. 16, the group will hold their second event, a supply drive to benefit Sojourner House. Volunteers outside Woonsocket Middle School will accept drive-thru donations of housewares, toiletries, baby sup- plies and other items for individuals escaping abusive situations. All of the events, said Girard, will be managed with social distancing in mind. The group plans to stream the vigil on Facebook Live, and reg- istries have been set up at Amazon and Walmart under "Behind Closed Doors" for online donations. The group is hoping to host other events in the fall COVID- 19-permitting, including a 5K race and several events to benefit the Woonsocket Cat Sanctuary in Tanya's memory. Tanya may no longer be here in person, but Girard says she believes her sister's memory will carry on. "People are remembering there was more to her," she said. Family planning vigil, events in Gagnon's memory By LAUREN CLEM Valley Breeze Staff Writer lauren@valleybreeze.com BREEZE PHOTO BY LAUREN CLEM The family of Tanya Gagnon, including, from left, her father, ROGER GAGNON, mother, SANDY GAGNON, and sister, TAMI GIRARD, say they're determined Tanya will not be remembered simply as a statistic. MoWC announces Summer SensAbilities program WOONSOCKET – The Museum of Work & Culture is holding Therapeutic Tuesdays, a free, bi- weekly virtual all-ability program. The program will provide families free access to therapist-led art and music activities designed to help children and teens with sensory sen- sitivities engage creatively with the MoWC's themes. The events will be streamed live on the Museum's Facebook page, where participants will be able to engage live with the therapists with comments and ques- tions. The broadcast will then be recorded and made available for those unable to attend the live ses- sion. In addition, families who register in advance will have the opportunity to pick up activity materials curbside at the museum the week before the program. Those wishing to register for free activity materials can email mowc@rihs.org. On Tuesday, July 28, at 9:30 a.m., licensed art therapists will lead "Summer Memories: Pressed Flowers," where participants will be invited to join us in creating framed art using pressed foliage. Participants will learn how to press, arrange, and decorate their framed art. Some plants, drawing tools, and papers will be provided for use. Those who have a quote or specific flowers in mind are invited to use them in the workshop. The final session will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 11, and will again fea- ture Hands in Harmony.

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