Valérie was one of the most full-of-life people I’ve ever known. I admired her spirit which seemed to be all kindness and creativity and generosity and energy – so much energy. It was boundless, and it emanated from her, whatever she was doing, and it poured out through her amazing smile which lit up her eyes and made you feel like you were really seen and really loved. That’s how she made me feel – like she loved me. Even though I didn’t know her all that well outside of our working relationship. Her spirit was a brightly covered quilt that wrapped me up every time I saw her.
Valérie was a special person. I barely ever saw her during the last few years, but I feel heartbroken today knowing she’s not on this earth anymore. I feel heartbroken that her little girl didn’t get a chance to live out her full potential and enjoy the beautiful life Valérie had planned for her.
Thank you, Valérie, for sharing even a small piece of your very large heart with me. I am richer for it. And I won’t forget you.
I have always been impressed with Val's ambition. She made bold choices — in design when I first knew her as a colleague, and in life when she became a friend. From little things like painting her oil tank with zebra stripes, learning to install flooring or starting her own yogurt culture, to big things like a career change to teaching, becoming a mom and acquiring a trap line.
She brought warm colour into every corner of her life — a lot of ruddy oranges and reds in particular — in campaigns, fine art projects, and more recently clothes for Adèle. I have a feeling those colours will always remind me of her rosy cheeks and warm smile.
We did a video conference interview with Valérie, a recent graphic design grad from Quebec, in the fall of 2005. She was out of breath from biking, her English was rudimentary, and she did not present herself very persuasively. But later, back at the studio, Margriet called Stéphane over to help review her portfolio. He took one look through and said, “You should hire this person.”
Her work was outstanding — but she didn’t even realize it herself. At first, she would develop concepts and provide sketches to “…guide someone else to illustrate,” she told the Creative Director. “What do you mean someone else, these sketches are wonderful, quirky and fun — use them!” Once she got the encouragement, it was like the floodgates opened. There was no stopping her. For the next five years Val developed brands and campaigns that resonate to this day and still make people stand back and notice.
The work she did reflected the kind of person she was. Valérie fully embodied what it means to be larger than life. She could never be just an employee, she had to be a friend, an enthusiastic supporter, a provocateur, an energetic member of the team.
As a project manager, it could be scary working with her — will the client be prepared to go down this path? Do I have the courage to present this new/radical direction? Invariably the answer was “yes,” and the work benefited from it.
When it was time for corporate activity, Val got 10 of us in a voyageur canoe, taught us some chanson des voyageurs and “encouraged” us to sing them as we paddled down the Yukon River. When Val needed a partner for a kayak race to the Takhini River, she inveigled her 50-something employer and Creative Director to take the bow position. They ended third to last in the race, but nobody else had as much fun.
Val loved her job, but she was driven by a need and desire to make a bigger difference in the world than she could do as an Art Director. She felt that being a teacher would give her greater purpose and enable her to make a meaningful impact on other people’s lives. We neither could nor wanted to argue with her on that. Who wouldn’t want a Valérie Théorêt for a teacher?
While looking through our archived files for pictures of Val, we went to the employee “temp” folders. Val’s was cleaned out except for a single image that she had left, labelled “Photo on 2010-08-14 at 23:11#3” She had recorded her last minute of working for us. Her smile is bright, her eyes are wide and enthusiastic as she prepares to move forward into a new career, a new life. The fuzzy, blurred half of the image is her hand waving goodbye…
~Margriet and Al Aasman