Petrolia mother and son mourned as police probe continues

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The OPP's Forensic Team was on inside the home.

The death of two people in a home shocked Petrolia but for social workers trained to help seniors stay connected, it also provokes feelings of guilt.

Last week, Lambton OPP were asked to check on the wellness of two people living at a home on Portland Street. Police tell The Independent they found a 63 year-old man and an 84 year-old woman dead inside.

Police are still investigating the deaths. “Post mortem examinations have been performed, but further testing will be conducted by Ontario Forensic Pathology Services and Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario,” says OPP Const. Jamie Bydeley in an email.

While the investigation with the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch continues, the community including the New Life Church congregation where the mother and son attended, mourned.

Myrna Herd was remembered by her friends as a kind woman who loved to chat. “She will be remembered for her years driving bus, joining friends at the coffee shop, her church family and her circle of crafting friends,” reads her obituary.
Her son, Jim, is also listed as passing away at home.

For emergency service workers, the deaths also hit hard. Jessica Haarer is a Crisis Social Worker at Lambton Elderly Outreach. Her job, in part, is to reach out to seniors whose families are concerned about them.

During the pandemic, Haarer says the needs are great as everyone is isolating. Haarer says there is only so much time to reach out to those in need.

“It’s very hard. I do feel like I’m missing people,” she says. “Sometimes I have to take a few days to get back to some folks and it makes me feel really bad because it’s a crisis program. And that shouldn’t be the case,” says Haarer.

While there is a real need for the service, Haarer says, right now there isn’t money available to expand the service to reach more seniors who may be facing crisis in their homes while being disconnected by the pandemic.

“I was talking to an OPP officer last week and they were going to see about getting funding to support another social worker who would give priority to OPP calls…but there is no guarantee that is even going to happen.

“I know that every agency is definitely trying their best. I am a part of a lot of committees and we do try to stay connected. But unfortunately, considering what I do, there’s not many services, like I am the only one that I know of that does this sort of work.”

And Haarer says that can lead to feelings of guilt when tragedy strikes in the community.

“Believe me, I think about that all the time. And it’s honestly really hard as a social worker, to not kind of take blame and feel the guilt … How could I not have known? And I know that, like as social workers, we can’t blame ourselves, but it’s almost like at the back of your mind,” she says.

“You can’t feel but a little bit of guilt.”

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