The Yellowhead Highway that cuts through Prince George is known as The Highway of Tears. There is a long list of women who have disappeared along this highway. A police task force continues to investigate. One woman didn’t seem to fit the pattern of the others: Wendy Ratte. Wendy didn’t go missing on the highway, but was last seen downtown. Wendy was a teacher and I knew her. She had been a substitute teacher in my class room not too long before she disappeared.
I’d had some concerns about the circumstances of her disappearance, because that subbing day, instead of the lesson I’d left for her, she’d brought in a script and did a play reading with my senior drama class. The play was Extremities. It is a very violent and graphic play about rape and justice. The kids were very upset about the language and theme. I remember wondering what was going on in her life that she thought it was appropriate that this explicit play of female revenge on a rapist be explored in a high school class room.
Well, now we have a little more inkling of her reality. Her husband has been charged with her murder. According to the news this morning, he has confessed and explained to the court that he dumped Wendy’s body in a swamp.
Perhaps the trauma of this news is deepened by the fact that in a painful coincidence I read Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones this week. It is narrated by a child who has been raped and whose body is never found.
The loss to the education community in Prince George and the loss to Wendy’s children seem particularly striking. Wendy’s children need the closure of knowing where their mom is buried, so for their sake I’m thankful their father is owning up to his role in their mother’s death. How painful to have been told for years that their mother abandoned them, when the real abandonment was their father’s. Now they have lost both parents. What a tragedy. Finding something normal in every day life is going to be a challenge. Their whole world is upside down.
Rest in Peace, Wendy. You’re still teaching.
(Note- edited December 2022 to change ‘daughter’ to ‘children’ in the last paragraph, with related pronoun adjustments. You may wish to note updates to the case in which the father has since recanted his testimony and claims not to have murdered Wendy, after all).