Ask anyone in the small, fiercely close-knit town of Dalhousie about Yves Meunier-Pelletier, and they'll tell you the same thing.
He was a big, lovable energy force of a man. Bursting with warmth and kindness, with a smile like the sun. A soon-to-be father of a little girl.
Their love and emotion is palpable. And so is their grief.
Meunier-Pelletier died Friday in a terrible accident at home, when the truck he was working on collapsed on him in his driveway. He was just 32 years old.
Losing a loved one is never less than wrenching.
But there are so many things that make Meunier-Pelletier's death especially heartbreaking.
Volunteer firefighter, son of Dalhousie mayor
Meunier-Pelletier was just weeks away from becoming a father. He and his wife, Erika Drapeau, were about to have a baby girl. The baby is due in February, and he was thrilled at the prospect, friends said.
He was known throughout the northern New Brunswick community of Dalhousie, population just over 3,000 — son of the town's mayor, Normand Pelletier, and a volunteer firefighter with the town's fire department.
At town council Monday night, councillors offered a special message of condolence to the absent Pelletier, who was at home mourning the loss of his son.
Members of the Dalhousie Fire Department papered their Facebook profiles with tributes and replaced their profile pictures with images of the DFD badge with a black mourning band across it.
Then there's the fact that he was part of very large, very loving and close family. You take away one piece and the entire structure wobbles.
"The last time i saw him, he picked me up right off the floor and said 'Hi matante!' It makes me cry just at the thought," said Yvonne Stewart Lapointe. "I have literally over a hundred young cousins, but he stood out. He was the sweetest, kindest, most generous ... a truly loving human."
The last time I saw him, he picked me up right off the floor and said 'Hi matante!' It makes me cry just at the thought. - Yvonne Stewart Lapointe
"I don't think I've ever met a person whose presence was so felt when he walked in a room," said his cousin, Robert Pelletier.
His cousin grabbed adventures with both strong hands but found joy in the little things, too, Pelletier said.
"I loved seeing him and his dad wrestle. I'd always be thinking, 'One of these days one of them will get hurt or furniture will get broken,' but it never happened."
Donald Pelletier, Meunier-Pelletier's uncle, said his nephew radiated good cheer, visiting relatives often and "always making us laugh."
"That's why we are so sad," he said. "We need his big smile to help us get through this."
Friends, neighbours and co-workers all echoed the same sentiment: he was a bright light in their lives, and without it, they are lost.
'My cousin, my hunting partner, my best friend'
Jeremy Letourneau's memories of Meunier-Pelletier are too big too fit into a few small words.
"Yves was not just my cousin, he was a brother to me," he said. "He was my hunting partner, my best friend ... he was the person I looked up to since we were young."
Meunier-Pelletier lived life large and loud, Letourneau said. He loved the outdoors, loved laughing, and really loved his noisy toys.
"I could always tell when he passed by my house on his four-wheeler or when he was coming down the hill at the camp, yelling 'La tone, le fun!' It would always bring a smile to my face," he said.
"Some of my favourite memories are of spending weekends up at the camp with the boys. We'd talk and laugh our hearts out and enjoy each other's company. Those get-togethers will never be the same."
The last time volunteer firefighter Kevin Hickey saw Yves Pelletier-Meunier, they were on a fire call together.
"I told him I had a little gift for the baby," Hickey said.
Hickey said the Dalhousie Fire Department members are in shock at the sudden loss of one of their own. Meunier-Pelletier joined the crew about five years ago and was a regular at the annual Firefit athletic competitions, where he would partner with Hickey.
Meunier-Pelletier was in his wedding a few years ago, Hickey said. But the memories go much further back.
"We grew up together, we played hockey together, went four-wheeling together, went to the World Pond Hockey Tournament in Plaster Rock," Hickey said.
"He was ... he was just a great guy. We're struggling with this. It's hard to wrap our head around it."
Fundraiser for wife, baby surpassed goal many times over
The loss that has cast pall of grief over the town has also brought it together to help the loved ones left behind.
"When you're from a small, close-knit community, you get to know people on a more personal level," said Dalhousie resident Pauline Carrier. "So when tragedy strikes, it affects all of us."
Within hours of the news of Meunier-Pelletier's death, a family friend had launched a GoFundMe campaign to help his wife and their baby.
"Today it is our turn to help a small family that is generous, dedicated and involved in the community," Virginie Allard said in the fundraiser's introduction.
In three days, the campaign had already blown past its $10,000 goal by more than $60,000.
Carrier said the outpouring of support is not surprising.
Both the Pelletier and the Drapeau families are "the kindest, most caring people that you can meet," she said. "Not a day goes by that we are not thinking about them."
A celebration of life service will be held on Dec. 30 at the Inch Arran Ice Palace. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, it is by invitation only, the family said.