Under grey skies and the vaulted ceilings of St. James-the-Less chapel, Dean Lisowick was remembered as someone with a “light that shone from him,” a man who remained generous despite the challenges he faced.
Ten months after he was named an alleged victim of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, friends and acquaintances of Lisowick, 47, gathered for a memorial service Friday, followed by a ceremony in the church’s Rose Garden where his ashes were scattered.
The service spoke of a man who endeared those around him with his kindness, while acknowledging a tragic fact about his final chapter: that Lisowick’s disappearance — sometime in late 2016 or early 2017 — went unreported.
“I’m guessing most of us here never knew him in life,” said Rev. Deana Dudley, who led a prayer during the service. “It breaks my heart.”
Dudley said Lisowick’s challenges in life, and his death, can nonetheless move individuals to act, and work towards ending some of the factors that made Lisowick particularly vulnerable, including homelessness.
“We need to recommit ourselves to make this a better world,” she said.
Lisowick used the city’s shelter system, and was in and out of the Scott Mission shelter beginning in 2003, sometimes checking in for months at a time, other times disappearing for as long. His last recorded check-in was on April 21, 2016.
Charles Fisch knew Lisowick because he sometimes slept on his street, near Church St. He got to know him, and described him during the service as “lovely and sweet … there was this light that shone from him.”
Fisch said he was moved to attend the funeral after learning that Lisowick hadn’t been reported missing, though he himself had noticed when Lisowick disappeared.
“I thought, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen Dean in a while.’ I thought he might have gone home. That was the clincher for me — I couldn’t not come today,” he said.
McArthur, 67, is facing eight counts of first-degree murder in homicides alleged to have occurred between 2010 and 2017. Each of the alleged victims had ties to Toronto’s Church and Wellesley area, the Gay Village. Police believe Lisowick was the 6th victim, killed sometime between April 2016 and March 2017.
McArthur is scheduled to appear in court on Monday, his first time at the Ontario Superior Court after waiving his right to a preliminary hearing at a lower court last month.
Haran Vijayanathan organized the memorial service, in consultation with Lisowick’s daughter, who could not attend the service.
Vijayanathan is the executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), an organization that vowed earlier this year to take on the bodies of individuals who were alleged to be among McArthur’s victims, but who were not claimed. When it was determined that the organization could not legally do this, Vijayanathan stepped forward to do so personally.
“People went missing and they were forgotten,” Vijayanathan said. “I didn’t want that to happen in their death. I think it’s important that they are remembered.”
Speaking to the Star earlier this year, shelter staff member Julian Picon described Lisowick as someone who “had a rough life, and faced a lot of struggles, he was very respectful.” Picon recalled that Lisowick was attentive, independent, and generous.
With files from Star archives
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis