ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – There isn't always a direct path from altar server to pastor. Father David Daws certainly proved that, walking one of the more obscure paths as he turned from a life of addiction to become a priest.
Daws died Aug. 11 in Abbotsford, B.C. He was 64.
Daws was born in Whitehorse into a troubled family. His father was an alcoholic and abusive.
He struggled with his own alcohol addiction and bounced around from job to job during his 20s. During this time he broke both his legs in a car accident.
He finally hit bottom at the age of 30 while working as an accountant in Inuvik, N.W.T.
Daws moved to Haines Junction, Yukon, and cleaned up with the help of the Catholic community. He worked for Parks Canada and volunteered with his parish. While helping people, he started to be attracted to the priesthood.
"It was a succession of things that were adding up, and it suddenly dawned on him that he could take all the energy he had and direct it towards what would really make a big difference in people's lives," said Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse.
"He was an amazing person for ministering to people on the street," Gordon said. "He knew the street and he was streetwise."
Daws studied for four years at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton and was ordained a priest in 1986. He moved back to the Yukon and served in parishes in Whitehorse, Carmacks, Faro, Teslin and Fort Nelson.
He worked tirelessly with people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Many addicts sought out him out because of his effective counselling.
"We talked, and he said, 'My life brought me here, and I can bring this to other people, and I can help other people because of what I went through,'" recalled his younger sister, Nora Sumner.
One of those addicts was Tom Amson. He told the Yukon News that he met Daws by divine intervention. He said talking to the priest allowed him to share his past openly with somebody who could understand the lifestyle. Amson is now 25 years sober.
"I don't know if I could have done that with anybody else," Amson said.
The priest was a tireless worker wherever he served. Sumner lived with him in 1989 in Whitehorse and was astounded at how demanding her older brother's vocation was.
"The phone would ring 24/7," she said. "You would hear him talk and then he'd get up and go. It didn't matter what time it was."
This dedication made Daws a beloved figure.
"It would take him probably two hours to go from one end of Main Street to the other," recalled Daws' sister Patricia Daws. "He would stop and visit with people. He tried to give to people whatever help he could give them."
Daws's health began to deteriorate and he moved to Abbotsford in 2008 to be closer to medical care. A funeral service was held at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse Aug. 17.