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‘We built a castle for Gloria—that castle collapsed in an instant’

Toronto family celebrates the ‘life and success’ of 22-year-old woman who died in Whistler

As Gloria Kodra made her way from her home in Toronto to Whistler for her first trip to the resort, she kept her father Arben in the loop via text.

A thumbs-up when she caught her Uber; a thumbs-up when she arrived at the airport. Another thumbs-up before her plane took off for Vancouver.

“I have in my texts the last words that I said to my daughter ... it was during first recess in my class, when I said ‘bon voyage,’ and that’s all,” said Arben, who works as an educator in Toronto.

“My last communication with my child. I never thought that she would not be back.”

On Friday, Feb. 25, Gloria passed away at the Whistler Health Care Centre after colliding with a tree on an intermediate trail in Whistler Mountain's Symphony Bowl.

But she was so much more than just a young woman who tragically lost her life on the slopes of Whistler, her father said.

“She was a beautiful, bright child; a young girl that finished Queen’s University last year with a 95-per-cent [average] and double degree in engineering and business,” he said.

“Always responsible, lovely girl, honest and all this, and this year she started working for a consulting company downtown, as a young engineer. It was her first trip in the workplace with her coworkers, to enjoy that weekend in Whistler.”

Gloria “was and she remains perfect in all aspects,” Arben said.

She served as a teacher’s assistant in her third and fourth years at Queen’s; made the Dean’s List; was awarded the University Medal in Civil Engineering for Excellence in Industry Design; was a Royal Conservatory Musician piano player.

She was also “a great activist for women’s rights,” and advocated for the “blind interview” in the workplace, “which means that you don’t judge someone for the way you look, but for the skills that you bring in a workplace,” Arben said.

Gloria had been skiing since she was young, when Arben would take her and her sister Arbela to a hill near their Toronto home, and read a book in the chalet while they skied.

The Kodra family moved from Milan, Italy to Canada in 1999, when Gloria was still in her mother Manuela’s womb, Arben said.

“Since 1999 until today, we as parents, we worked very hard, day and night. I started working physically during the night, and teaching during the day, and we tried to do everything right for our daughters,” he said.

“We gave them both a great education, good values, and everything—and God was unjust.”

In the weeks since Gloria’s death, the family has been left searching for answers—what happened? What were her last moments like?

“Did she scream? Did she panic? We would like to know,” Arben said.

“We keep looking at the slopes of Whistler … what kind of slope was that? What is the protection that is offered to these people there, the guidance? I have been told that there are signs, but still, it’s not enough for us.”

Arben went so far as to contact the restaurant Gloria dined at the night before she died, which sent him the CCTV footage of their party.

In it, Gloria can be seen laughing and smiling for a few fleeting moments before heading out of frame.

“You can see Gloria, adjusting carefully her necklace, her white scarf to be properly balanced, as she has been taught, to be always with the good manners, and always presentable,” Arben said.

“I still cannot imagine how she lost her life. How did she lose it? As a parent, one day I’d like to come and put a flower at the place where my daughter lost her life.”

If there’s any solace to be found in imagining Gloria’s last days, it’s that “she seemed very, very happy those two days” in Whistler, Arben said, noting the last text message Gloria sent to her mother on Feb. 25, consisting of just two words.

“She said to her mom, ‘insanely pretty,’ when she was on top of the mountain of Whistler,” he said.

The Kodra family arrived in Canada in 1999 with nothing but their luggage, “and we built here a wonderful life for our kids, with honesty,” Arben said.

“We built a castle for Gloria—that castle collapsed in an instant.”