Valerie Leblanc loved wearing fedoras and many of the hundreds who attended her funeral in Hull Wednesday donned them in her honour.
“She would just get up in the morning and put on a hat,” friend Julie Racicot, 21, said after the ceremony at St. Joseph Cathedral.
Mentioning Leblanc’s trademark brought a smile to Myriam Trepanier’s face.
“She had her style,” said Trepanier, 17.
The girls became friends during a church event and instantly clicked.
“She was always there to help people and that made me love her very much,” said Trepanier.
Leblanc’s body was found Aug. 23 in the woods behind the CEGEP de l’Outaouais campus.
The 18-year-old had been beaten and burned.
Leblanc’s maternal grandfather, Rheal Charron, is a former Gatineau policeman, according to family friend Claude Scott.
“I met her when she was a kid but I knew Julie (Valerie’s mother) very well,” said Scott, a retired RCMP officer who’s known the family for almost 50 years.
“It’s a terrible tragedy. I did talk to Valerie’s grandfather, who is my personal friend. He’s taking it very hard.”
The eulogy was delivered by Leblanc’s godmother and two female cousins sang a song they wrote just for her.
Leblanc’s body was cremated.
Her family came outside carrying the urn, releasing butterflies to set her spirit free.
The young woman was active in the church, say friends, and four priests attended the funeral.
“I think they consider Valerie to be a very good Christian and to be a martyr in her own right because of the violence that she was subjected to,” said Scott.
“You could see today, people are very demolished by this, including myself.”
Gatineau police don’t have any suspects and are conducting two separate investigations: One involving the murder and another dealing with the tampering of her body afterward.
Scott said he’s seen cases like this all over the country.
“The Gatineau police is doing a tremendous job in trying to apprehend the culprit,” he said. “I have faith in the system and I think that sooner or later, the efforts of the police will bring some success. That’s what I’m hoping for.”
So are her friends, who say Leblanc will be fondly remembered for the way she lived, not the way she was taken.
“She loved life and I admire her for that,” said Trepanier.