Hundreds of people are expected to gather in the southwestern New Brunswick town of St. George on Saturday to say goodbye to the beloved Boyd family of four, who died of smoke inhalation Tuesday when their home went up in flames.
Organizers are preparing for up to 400 mourners from across Atlantic Canada at the memorial service for 80-year-old Esther (Spinney) Boyd and her three sons in their 50s, who were all under her care, Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West MLA Rick Doucet told CBC News.
Main Street will be closed to traffic at noon for a public reception, slated to begin after the 2 p.m. service at St. George Baptist Church, he said.
The deaths of Boyd and her sons, William (Billy) Boyd, 59, David (Davey) Boyd, 55, and Robert (Robbie) Boyd, 52, have shaken the tight-knit community of about 1,500 people.
"As a community we want to remember, honor, and celebrate the lives of the Boyd family," a notice posted on the town's Facebook page states.
The fatal fire at 25 South St. has been deemed not suspicious in nature, following investigations by the RCMP and the provincial fire marshal's office.
But the cause remains unknown.
"With the current evidence the fire is classified as undetermined," government spokesman Paul Bradley said in an email on Thursday.
Investigations by the Office of the Fire Marshal can have four outcomes: accidental, incendiary, natural or undetermined, said Bradley.
"In a case where there is insufficient evidence for the OFM to pinpoint the igniting object to a singular specific item which coincides with the area of origin, it is classified as undetermined," he said.
It's unclear why none of the victims managed to escape the noon-hour fire. Bradley declined further comment, citing privacy reasons.
"If anyone has information on this fire, we encourage them to please contact the local police authority or the Office of the Fire Marshal," he said.
Grateful for support
The victim's bodies were discovered inside their white wooden home after the fire, which was reported around 12:20 p.m.
"Despite the best efforts of first responders, the four occupants of the home were pronounced dead at the scene," RCMP Sgt. Chris Henderson said in a statement.
All four died of smoke inhalation, he said, without naming them.
"St. George is a small close-knit community and to lose four of our citizens in such a tragic way is difficult for all," said Henderson.
"People from St. George and from the nearby communities have come together in such a tremendous way to support the family, friends and all the first responders who were involved. We thank everyone for their support with this tragic event."
Devoted to family and church
A private family graveside service will be held at the St. George Rural Cemetery on Saturday at 11 a.m., prior to the public memorial service at St. George Baptist Church at 25 Main St., with overflow being directed to St. Mark's Anglican Church across the street.
Esther Boyd, who was born in St. George, was a longtime member of the St. George Baptist Church and enjoyed singing in the choir for many years, according to the family's joint obituary.
"She devoted her life to her family and the church," the obituary says.
Pastor John Hooper said Boyd used to attend the church regularly but had been unable to make it there for roughly the past four years.
Her middle son, Davey, who would have celebrated his 56th birthday on Saturday, belonged to the Anglican church across the street. It's possible the memorial service will be live-streamed there, organizers said.
Local businesses have donated food and money for the public reception on Main Street, they said.
Esther Boyd was predeceased by her husband, Clifton Boyd, and her parents, James Renforth and Grace Spinney. She is survived by several nieces and nephews.