When Kirtland Menard, 10, found out his father died, the very first thing he did was go on his iPad and open up Minecraft.
He proceeded to build a virtual-stone memorial for his father and after that, he built a zoo.
Kirtland's father Jean-Paul ‘JP’ Menard had a heart attack while hunting in the bush in Alberta last November.
Kirtland and his mother Jeanette Rhodes-Menard had talked to his father earlier that day and spoke about the new iPad he had just received.
The last text Kirtland and his mother received was, "Gotta go home now, coyotes are getting loud."
That was Nov. 8, 2016.
Kirtland's mother describes her son as "high-functioning autistic."
The memorial was his personal way of coping with his father's death, and doing something to honour him.
The tribute is contained to an offline Minecraft universe on his iPad.
Minecraft is a 3D video 'sandbox' game, where a player can build their own personal universe from scratch.
The memorial itself resembles a grave and tombstone and has a red poppy in honour of his father’s military service.
As soon as Kirtland finished that object, on the same day, he moved to another section of his virtual world and created the JP Memorial Zoo.
“I knew my dad liked animals so I built him a zoo,” he said.
The zoo includes every animal in the Minecraft universe but, because his father liked to fish, Kirtland made sure to put an aquarium with octopuses in it.
He also put smoked salmon in the zoo cafe because it was one of his dad’s favourite foods.
JP was an enthusiastic outdoorsman from a young age with a particular interested in hunting and guns.
“There was nothing you could tell him that he didn’t know about firearms,” said Jeanette.
After high school he joined the army and, Jeannette said, he was already a skilled marksman and was so knowledgeable about weapons that, just as a regular soldier, he found a mistake in an arms manual which led to them issuing a formal correction.
After the army, JP became a forensic scientist with an expertise in firearms and tool marks.
If police were investigating a shooting or stabbing "he was your guy," said Jeannette, adding “he was once described as the most knowledge scientist in his field in all of Canada.”
Jeanette said that after JP died, the Centre of Forensic Sciences in the Sault dedicated a reference library to him.
She herself purchased a trophy and donated it as the JP Menard Memorial Marksmanship Trophy to the 155 Borden Grey Air Cadets who now issue it annually to their most improved marksman.
At a funeral ceremony for JP at Legion Hall, Kirtland and his mother were both given red poppies and JP received a traditional Last Post bugle call.
Kirtland got another chance to honor his father by drawing a tile that’s now included in the Canada 150 Mural Mosaic which now rests at city hall.
Kirtland drew a few buildings and a sun — it was a tribute to his father and his hometown.
“He hates painting,” said Jeannette. “For him just to sit there and participate, it was good for him — he achieved something.”
Since JP's death, the family has been rebuilding.
Kirtland and his mom just went backpacking across Europe together. Since getting back, Jeannette has torn the kitchen apart for renovations that she and JP had planned before he passed away.
Kirtland started at a new school in January, and Jeanette is starting a new business helping foreign students find affordable accommodations.
Although Minecraft isn’t Kirtland’s main game anymore, he still plays it and keeps his tribute to his dad running to this day, tweaking it every once in a while.
“Every time a new animal is uploaded (to Minecraft), I put it in the zoo,” he said.