Friends are remembering Dunbar Horsford, a migrant worker in Niagara, as a good father, partner, and hard-working man who would do anything for his family.
He was two weeks away from going home to Grenada when he suffered a heart attack while driving a tractor, and died.
“He just wanted to give [his kids] a better life than he had,” said Devon Augustine a fellow migrant worker at the farm and a lifelong friend. “He was always instrumental in their life even though he was working. It’s really hard to see that he’s going to not be there to really take care, see that everything’s okay with his kids.”
On Nov. 9, Horsford was driving the tractor in front of his colleagues when it started to sway. The tractor ended up in a ditch, and Horsford had suffered a heart attack, says Augustine. He died at 49-years-old.
That same morning, Augustine said, they were picking apples, laughing, talking and singing. He didn’t see this coming.
The two men grew up together. Horsford lived with Augustine and his grandmother in their teens. Horsford had worked at the farm for nine seasons, supporting his family in Grenada and his mom in Trinidad.
“It’s been a hard time,” Augustine said. “It’s been difficult dealing with it. It’s hard to lose a friend and a co-worker — a brother.”
Horsford had been saving up to marry his partner, Maria, who he had been with for 18 years. When Augustine went to pack Horsford’s things away, he saw the engagement ring left out on a table.
His wedding band arrived the other day.
Augustine described calling Maria to tell her and their three boys — Mario, Miguel, and Daviel — the news. It was painful talking to the oldest, he said, and encouraging him to look out for his brothers like he always has.
Augustine would always hear Horsford praying or on the phone with his family, telling the kids to go to school and not give their mom any trouble. He’d sometimes call five times a day.
“Me, I would say ‘oh my goodness’,” Augustine laughed. “He loved his family. And he worked hard. It was difficult to stay away… Even me, I know I have my own family…but sometimes you just got to do what you got to do to make a better future for our kids.”
Horsford would also save money each year for a project, and this year he was planning on fixing the roof of his home.
A Go Fund Me has been set up by the community in Vineland to help raise money for the family’s expenses and the boys’ education. At the time of writing, they raised almost $26,000.
The Southridge Community Church in Vineland, along with Sandra and Glen Reimer who live beside the farm in Lincoln, have built a strong friendship with the men and their families over the years.
Horsford was a kind, quiet man with an easy laugh and a face that lit up when he smiled, said Sandra Reimer.
They would get together for birthdays and events, cooking for each other and learning traditional Grenadian dishes.
“We loved just trying to be like family to them when they’re so far from their families,” she said.
A small in-person memorial service, a first for the church since COVID-19 restrictions came in place, was held to honour Horsford’s life and streamed to his family in Grenada.
“It was just really nice [to] show them how much Dunbar was loved, and that he had friends and family here too, even though he was so far from home,” she said.
Nathan Dirks, a pastor at the church, said the pain people are feeling is a testament to the genuine connection and friendship people had with Horsford.
His body and the other workers will return to Grenada on Monday. Another service will be held there, and they will try to stream it so those in Canada can watch.
Augustine said he’s “proud” to have neighbours that feel like family. That makes things a little easier.
“We are holding up as guys together, and we are looking out for each other,” he said. “We will always remember.”