A lone female is walking briskly along Route 70, about half-a-kilometre ouside of the tiny community of Grates Cove.
Approaching a sharp, blind turn in the road, she removes the white earphones piping music from her media player, and glances at the unusual markings on the asphalt and along the gravel shoulder.
The markings - a combination of yellow circles and bright orange paint strokes - were created by an RCMP officer who specializes in accident investigations. And they tell the tale of a tragedy that continues to cast a dark cloud over this tight-knit settlement, which is located about 90 kilometres north of Carbonear, at the extreme tip of the Baccalieu Trail.
Slowing her pace, the woman speaks about the "gentle man" who died on this spot recently, and the "real tragedy" of his death.
"He was in everybody's house at one point or another for a cup of tea," she says before once again hitting full stride.
Bicycle was freedom
It was a typical, quiet day in Grates Cove on Sept. 24, and one of its best-known citizens, Ezekiel Martin, was doing what he loved most - ride his bicycle.
The 78-year-old was deaf and mute, was never married and had no children, and for the past 38 years had lived with his older brother, 90-year-old Tom Martin, and Tom's wife of 58 years, Isabel.
He was a friend to all in this community of just over 100 inhabitants, and was also known to many in the neighbouring communities of Bay de Verde, Old Perlican and Red Head Cove.
His bike was more than a mode of transport. It was freedom. He cherished his bicycle, kept it under lock-and-key when it wasn't in use, and spent hours keeping it in top working order. And he usually had two plastic bottles secured to his bike rack, one filled with soda and the other with water.
Ezekiel was a familiar sight on the road leading into the community, and a common warning to motorists in the area was to keep an eye out for moose, and for Uncle Ezekiel, as he was known.
But his eyesight was failing in recent years, and though he felt like a young person while riding his bicycle, he wasn't the most stable in the saddle.
Despite repeated warnings from his caregivers to stay off the road, Ezekiel would not give up his bicycle, and was routinely seen pushing it up the hill out of the community. He would mount his bicycle when the terrain levelled off, and usually ride to Tickle Pond and back. He especially enjoyed the return trip because it was mostly downhill.
That's exactly what he did on Sept. 24, and it turned out to be his last bike ride.
Just outside of Grates Cove, at about 3:35 p.m., Ezekiel was struck and killed by the mail delivery vehicle as it was leaving the community following its daily visit.
Police have ruled the death as an "unfortunate accident," and suspect Ezekiel may have been attempting to make a turn in the road when he was struck.
Many say it was the greatest tragedy to strike this community of just over 100 inhabitants in more than 40 years.
Several hundred people crowded into Grace United Church for the funeral, and there was a steady parade of mourners visiting Tom and Isabel for several days after, dropping off food, offering condolences and sharing stories about Ezekiel.
There were many tears of sorrow, but also plenty of light moments as family and friends reminisced about the man who could charm even the most withdrawn child with his smile and antics, and always catch the largest fish, regardless of whether he did or not.
"We lost a major part of our family," Christine Martin, Ezekiel's niece, said last week.
Kept his innocence
A full week after the accident, the mood inside Tom and Isabel's house is a mixture of sadness, shock and wistfulness.
There's a stack of photos on the kitchen table, and they speak volumes. Ezekiel was a ham for the camera, and had a sense of humour that portrayed his innocence and gregariousness.
He was a master at making shadow animals with his hands, loved to colour and do word puzzles, and was rarely in a sour mood. He drank about 10 cups of tea each day, sometimes at 10 different kitchen tables.
He especially loved the attention that came his way on Christmas Eve, when he traditionally opened his many gifts, but would not hesitate to complain if there were too many pairs of socks.
He had a limited vocabulary, and used his own minimal form of sign language. But there was no confusing his trademark quip - "Now all right, 'spose."
"We all understood him," said Tony Martin, sounding pensive. Tony was Ezekiel's nephew, and the two shared a bedroom for several years after Ezekiel moved in with Tom and Isabel.
"He was so thankful for everything he got," said Tony, who was known as "Jukie" to Ezekiel. "He was like a brother to me."
Ezekiel left school in Grade 8, but Christine said he touched more people than most with his spirit, energy and cheerfulness.
"He was always referred to as being deaf and mute, but to us he was as wise as anyone around," she said.
Ezekiel was also very inquisitive and crafty. He made wooden smoking pipes and berrypickers, and was considered a handy tailor.
On one occasion, he used a thread and needle to reverse the collar on his shirt because it was faded, and he once created a pair of "steel-toed" safety sneakers.
He couldn't resist the temptation to see the inner workings of gadgets such as a watch, and as a young boy, his parents gave him a hearing aid, but he quickly picked it apart and gave it away.
"He just loved to be at stuff," Tony explained.
And family members are quick to emphasize that Ezekiel was loved and supported.
"He got a kiss and a hug every day of his life," said Christine. "He had all he wanted."
Meanwhile, sitting in her chair next to the window, Isabel can clearly see the street in front of her home, and remembers watching the mail delivery vehicle leave the community that day. She wondered at the time why Ezekiel hadn't returned for his afternoon snack and cup of tea.
It wasn't much longer before Christine brought the horrible news.
"I knew something was wrong," said Isabel, who has Parkinson's disease, but continued to care for Ezekiel.
She still finds it hard to believe he's gone.
"I got up this morning to get his pills ready," she said.
Tom doesn't say much these days, but the loss of his brother hasn't been easy. For the first time in their lives, Tom and Isabel are "empty nesters," though they have plenty of family close by.
They can take some consolation in knowing that Ezekiel will not soon be forgotten. There are already talks about creating a memorial, one that will serve as a lasting reminder of Ezekiel's universal appeal in this area.
"He never got old," said Christine. "We want to build a reminder that he lived a good life. That he was well taken care of."