Category Archives: Hedley Times

Drug House Sign On Telephone Poll

IMG_3526

Last week when Linda and I were walking along Daly Avenue in Hedley, we noticed an unusual sign attached to a telephone pole. It was an “advertisement” for the local drug house. Someone must have placed it there in the darkness of the night. It had not been there the previous day and would certainly be removed before the end of this day. People selling illicit drugs do not place ads in newspapers or on telephone poles. Fortunately, I had my camera in my jacket pocket and I took advantage of the opportunity.

The sign intrigued me because although there is a good deal of under the breath grumbling about the drug house, I’m not aware anyone has taken any direct action, other than complaining to the police.

At the Senior Centre’s coffee time early the next morning, Linda learned that similar signs had been posted on poles elsewhere in town, but no one could even guess who had done it. Whoever did it likely fears retribution and isn’t talking. All we know is the individual has the ability to use a computer, but just about everyone in Hedley possesses that skill.

My best guess is that it was a woman. One with the lively imagination required to concoct a plan such as this. (I’ll call her Martha.) Without exposing herself, Martha has cleverly and effectively cast light on the local drug operation. This certainly will not be welcome. When I looked for the signs the next morning, they had already been taken down.

Martha evidently possesses a well developed social conscience, and the will to take action when she believes her community is threatened. If one of the drug house “clients” had been restless and wandering about that night, she might have been seen and reported.

In suggesting that it was a woman who posted the signs, I’m obviously making an assumption. However, women have often provided leadership in battles against wrongdoing in their community. I’m always impressed when, instead of attacking head on, they devise wonderfully ingenious schemes to unsettle their adversary.

Nellie McClung

Martha seems to have a lot in common with an early Canadian social activist, Nellie McClung. I was reminded of Nellie when I saw the sign on the pole. Early in the 20th century Nellie and a delegation of women publicly presented Manitoba Premier Redmond Roblin with a petition requesting that women be given the right to vote. Roblin told them his mother had instilled in him a great respect for women and that they are actually on a higher plane than men. Nevertheless, he declared himself unequivocally opposed to giving them the right to vote. While he was speaking, Nellie observed his pompous, patronizing attitude, his ingratiating friendliness designed to disarm them, and his at times loud, commanding voice.

The following evening Nellie announced to a capacity crowd in the Walker Theater in Winnipeg that the program would include a mock parliament. It would feature a fantasy legislature in which gender roles were reversed.

When the curtain rose the stage was occupied by women wearing evening gowns and black coats.

Nellie McClung, in the role of Premier, adopted Roblin’s pompous, patronizing words and tones. Referring to a delegation of men who had requested the right to vote, she said, ”if all men were as intelligent as these representatives of the downtrodden sex seem to be, it might not do any harm to give them the vote. But all men are not intelligent.” Many in the audience had heard similar words about women from the Premier the evening before. She adopted the Premier’s stance, palms up. “There is no use giving men the vote,” she continued. “They wouldn’t use them. They’d let them spoil and waste. How could they be allowed to vote,” she thundered, “when 70% of those appearing in court are men? Giving men the vote would unsettle the home. The place for them is on the farm!”

These women protested with Nellie McClung.
These women protested with Nellie McClung.

Nellie McClung’s response to the Premier was innovative and her performance was masterful. She succeeded in persuading the audience that the Premier’s intransigence was illogical and foolish.

Although the signs have been removed from the poles, they aren’t really gone. I’ve heard that a local citizen posted a picture of one on Facebook.

The drug house won’t close because of Martha’s signs, but like Nellie McClung, she has reminded us that it is possible to push back against unsavoury influences in our community.

Seeking The Hedley Monk

A Buddhist monk.

Autumn had set in and brown leaves were falling freely from the trees when Anna told me about a Buddhist monk living in a cave somewhere in Windy Canyon. I had not heard of him previously and wondered if she was an imaginative storyteller. She was young and had recently come to Camp Colonial in Hedley to work as a cook.

I hiked along 20 Mile Creek yesterday and came upon his cave quite by accident,” she said. “He doesn’t come into town, and he doesn’t want visitors.”

This was the early 1980’s. Our organization, the One Way Adventure Foundation, had recently been awarded a contract by the Corrections Branch to work with 12 young offenders. Many of these youths had not had the benefit of constructive modeling in their homes. They had learned to function by lying, cheating, deceiving, stealing, being aggressive, avoiding responsibility and much more. Most had lived in foster and group homes. Whenever possible, I took the 4 most difficult ones, Phillip, Curt, Bert and Harry away from the camp so they couldn’t influence, intimidate or incite the others.

I was constantly alert for activities that might shift the thinking of these youths away from the street culture with which they were familiar. If this monk living in a cave was indeed real, it might be an opportunity to expose the boys to a radically different set of values and lifestyle.

Already the mercury was dipping to zero at night. For several weeks the mountains surrounding our little community had been bedecked by a mantel of white. On the third day of November, a skiff of snow covered the ground and we began seeing smoke rising from chimneys.

IMG_0742

By December 22nd the ice was thick enough to walk on, and I asked Anna to pack 5 lunches for the following morning. She suspected my intentions and again said, “he asked me to tell people he doesn’t want visitors.” I thanked her for the reminder.

A fine, wind blown snow was falling when I instructed the 4 boys to dress warmly because we’d be out all day, searching for a mysterious monk who supposedly lived in a cave. After breakfast we leaned into the snow and wind, walking determinedly along 20 Mile Creek.

Initially we followed the former mining road. When it turned up the mountainside, we were well into Windy Canyon, a deep mountainous gorge with space only for the creek and a narrow footpath. At the first crossing of the creek, we found a log with short boards nailed insecurely to it. After that the crossings were mostly on ice, water gurgling beneath us.

There were no complaints from the boys as we slogged laboriously in the deepening snow. After about 3 hours, Bert glanced up. “Look!” he exclaimed excitedly, “is that it?” We clambered up a steep bank, having difficulty maintaining our footing.

A short wooden wall covered the front of the cave. There was a door of rough boards and a small window. The monk had heard our laboured grunting and opened the door. His bespectacled face revealed no displeasure at our unanticipated appearance. He beckoned us to enter.

I looked around and concluded this man lived in unimaginably sparse circumstances. A small wood stove with a pipe exiting through the wooden wall provided some heat. A large chair and a mantel stood against the rock wall to our right.

Would you like coffee?” he asked, as though he had anticipated our arrival. His voice suggested a quality education and upbringing. The boys nodded and I said “we’d appreciate that. Please forgive us for showing up without prior notice.” He smiled at this, then filled a tin can with water and deftly ground coffee beans with a manual grinder.

Why are you living in this cave?” I asked.

I’m seeking enlightenment,” he replied. “Much of my day is taken up with doing prostrations.”

We talked for about 15 minutes, drinking his delicious, black coffee. The boys listened respectfully.

During our conversation Bert asked where he slept. The monk pointed to the large chair and said, “that’s where I sleep.”

Through the wooden wall we could hear the wind growing stronger. It was time to leave. Before walking out, each of the boys said “thanks for the coffee” and shook the monk’s hand. They seemed to sense they had experienced a bit of Similkameen history.

George And Christina, Still Valentines

George & Christina, with a couple of Christina's creations.
George & Christina, with a couple of Christina’s creations.

For me a relationship that has been tested by the storms of life holds a more riveting fascination than young, often transitory romance. Aware of the cloud overshadowing the marriage of George and Christina Thiessen, and with Valentines Day approaching, I wanted to hear their story. Last week they invited Linda and me to their spacious heritage home in Hedley.

For reasons that will be revealed, George did most of the talking. “We met in Reno,” he began. “Christina was a passenger on the bus I was driving for Maverick Tours. The Tour Guide asked me what I like to do in Reno. I told her I’d probably go dancing. I just needed a partner. She introduced me to Christina, and that evening Christina was my dancing partner.”

She told me later she had not expected to hear from me again, after we returned to B.C.”

George had been married twice. His first wife had borne 3 children, then died at a young age. The second wife had become a demanding, unruly alcoholic and the marriage had been a crushing failure.

Upon meeting Christina, George realized she possessed the depth of character he had been longing for. Smitten by her pretty, smiling face and evident kindness, he called her.

In time they moved in together. “Christina wouldn’t marry me though,” George said. “She had also been hurt in previous relationships and didn’t want to commit again.”

George continued to drive the tour bus, at times away for 11 days, with only a 1 day break between trips. Christina was working at the Surrey Memorial Hospital, cleaning operating rooms. George’s driving schedule and their history of hurtful relationships might have made this a rocky union. Fortunately George’s stability appealed to Christina and reassured her.

When I lost my 17 year old son in a bike/automobile accident, it was a difficult time,” he said. “Christina stood by me. Then my daughter passed away and again Christina was at my side, supporting me.”

They saw an ad for a spacious home in Hedley and called the realtor. Entranced by the house and the large yard, they bought it. The house needed serious updating so George studied magazines, bought tools and set to work.

George & Christina, in front of their Hedley home, Oct. 2015
George & Christina, in front of their Hedley home, Oct. 2015

He began experiencing severe sciatic pain and Graham Gore, pastor of the Hedley Grace Church, drove him to Kelowna for surgery. After recovering, George and Christina attended the church on a Sunday morning to thank the congregation for their support. Liking the people and the atmosphere, they continued to attend. On May 30, 2009 Graham married them in a small ceremony on their park like grounds.

About 2 years later the aforementioned cloud appeared on the horizon, scarcely noticeable at first. “Tests were done and we were told Christina had a slow progressing form of dementia,” George said, a note of deep sadness in his voice.

The diagnosis changed their lives. “Christina was always very talented in crafting,” George said. “One year she made 30 teddy bears to give away as Christmas gifts. She inspired me to take up woodworking.”

He pushed back his chair. “Come,” he said, “we’ll show you some of our creations. He led us upstairs to 3 rooms where we were greatly impressed by an array of Christina’s stuffed animals lolling on chairs and George’s intricate wood creations displayed on the walls. A beguiling aura of genius pervaded these rooms.

George with one of his wood creations.
George with one of his wood creations.

The dementia has caused this creative activity to cease. Their lives have become constricted. They still attend the church but participate only briefly in the coffee time afterwards. “Christina becomes anxious in groups.”

George paused. “Sometimes when I’m doing yardwork she wanders off and I don’t notice Fortunately, if she stays on the route we walk, she can find her way back. Usually when people see her alone, I get phone calls. People want to help.”

Christina playing the keyboard.
Christina playing the keyboard.

Not all is lost. Christina played the key board for us and her rendition of the Blue Danube Waltz was delicate and pleasing. Also, we had observed that while George was talking about the dementia, she sensed his distress and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. When they go out, she requests his assistance in selecting appropriate combinations of clothes. Although her comprehension is limited, she is able to engage in simple exchanges.

I love Christina and I’m committed to her,” George said. “I won’t place her in a home. We’re in this together to the end.” They’re still Valentines.

Ayrelea In India

Ayrelea Nimchuk
Ayrelea Nimchuk

We would likely not be surprised if a 15 year old girl decided to spend at least a portion of her summer earnings on designer clothes, jewelry and cosmetics. Quite possibly Ayrelea Nimchuk of Hedley was also tempted by these allurements. I was amazed to learn that she chose instead to pay for a trip to India where she volunteered for about 3 weeks at a school for underprivileged boys.

Sitting in our sun room she said, “I heard Dan and Olga McCormick talking about going to a boys school in India. I asked when they were leaving and said I’d like to go with them.”After several discussions and some research, her parents agreed. Ayrelea saved her income from working at the Hedley Museum to pay almost $3000 for the trip. The Hedley Seniors’ Centre gave her $200 and the Hedley Grace Church contributed $500 for a chicken dinner for the approximately 500 boys at the school.

Prem Sewa is a free boarding school for boys from poor homes,” she said. “They can start at age 5 and go to grade 12. Parents are eager to have their sons attend. They know there is no future for them without an education. In their home these boys often received only one meal a day. At the school they get 3 meals. She smiled and said, “the plates are really big and the boys go back for second and third helpings. They eat it all.”

In addition to Dan and Olga, there were 3 other recruits from Keremeos. “ We played football (soccer) with them. It’s a big game there. Also, they love volley ball. Their ball is very hard but they really smack it. They are good players.”

Ayrelea in India (3)

Another smile. “They all wanted us to take pictures of them. They’d say ‘one photo’, but they meant many. They’d look at the picture and burst out laughing.”

According to the school’s website, it’s purpose is “to give children from poor homes, orphans and semi-orphans, a chance to study in schools and institutions, which otherwise would be closed to them.” There is a computer lab, a wood workshop, a mechanics shop and land to grow crops. If a boy demonstrates special promise, Frank Juelich the founder, will personally pay for him to attend college.

Ayrelea in India, rolling dough to make chapattis.
Ayrelea in India, rolling dough to make chapattis.

The school, which has a sister school for girls about 650 kilometers away, actually was not begun intentionally. As a young man Frank Juelich traveled in India and wanted to learn a local language. He found 3 young men with a desire to learn English and they began studying together and helping each other. One of these men knew a boy who needed an education and asked if they could help him. Soon there were 40 boys attending sessions.

Frank became aware of the pressing need for educational opportunities among the very poor. He returned to Canada, raised $42,000 and purchased 17.75 acres in a rural area.

Now the school has a small medical clinic with a nurse on duty. A doctor comes in once a week. They also have an ambulance. The boys bathe 2 times each day and learn about hygiene. Since the inception of the school, dormitories and other facilities have been constructed. A settlement has grown up around the facility, and approximately 150 children are day students at the school.

The language of instruction is Marathi, with English also required.“We sat with them in the English classes and helped them,” Ayrelea said. “When we went to the market, we took along a few of the boys who were more advanced in English to translate for us.”

I was impressed to learn that most of the staff are graduates of the school, including the Director and also the President. Frank Juelich, now elderly, is continuing as a consultant. He wants to die in India.

Ayrelea returned with many vivid memories. Cows, pigs and chickens wandering unmolested, cow dung used to fill joints in walls. Markets with a rich array of offerings. Also, she loved the peanut butter. For her the experience reinforced a desire to be involved in humanitarian work somewhere.

Ayrelea dressed in her salwar kameez.
Ayrelea dressed in her salwar kameez.

She’s a pretty young lady and really doesn’t need the designer clothes and jewelry. Her decision has provided her with rich experiences and memories, and it brought smiles to the faces of the boys in India.

The Flavour Of Our Community

I asked Lynn Wells for permission to post the following letter, because it says something about  the flavour of our little community of Hedley.

Hedley Christmas Dinner 2016
Hedley Christmas Dinner 2016

Dear Hedley Seniors’ Centre friends and members:

It was an outstanding Christmas Day dinner at the Hedley Seniors’ Centre. We were expecting around 75 people. We seated 90. Fortunately, we cooked six turkeys with stuffing, two hams, 30 pounds of potatoes, as well as sweet potatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts, carrots, peas, and dinner rolls, accompanied by buckets of gravy and cranberry sauce. The dinner ended with some delectable desserts including pumpkin pies, black forest cake, cookies, Christmas cake, and much more. Everyone had more than enough to eat, and we sent five dinners to residents who were unable to attend the dinner.

The biggest note of appreciation goes to all those who donated money, food and, especially their time. Santa has his elves, the Seniors’ Centre has its wonderful volunteers. A special thank you goes to Beryl Wallace, Peggy Terry, Ruth Woodin, Nancy Draper, Margaret Skaar and her son Fred, Robin Ford, Cherie Ruprecht, Joy Pillipow & her grand-daughter Sophie, Lynne Mackay, Patt Melville, Cindy Regier, Michelle Jacobs, Marie Jacobs, Russ Stoney, Dave Peers, and Gary Ross. They shopped for supplies, set up and decorated tables, prepared food, cooked, delivered food, served food, and helped to clean up afterwards.

The Hitching Post and the Nickel Plate Restaurants also contributed. I apologize if I have missed anyone. especially those who brought food to the dinner or who worked silently in the background. Thank you to all those people, too. This Christmas dinner is an annual event at the Hedley Seniors’ Centre. It is a way to bring the community together on a day of celebration and giving. Thank you, everyone.

And now, on behalf of the Board of Directors and members of the Hedley Seniors’ Centre,

We wish you a healthy and happy 2017!

Lynn Wells

President

Look Thy Last On All Things Lovely

This summer I thought of Walter de la Mare’s line, “look thy last on all things lovely every hour.” It had become indelibly imprinted on my memory when I was still in school decades ago. Although I don’t recall thinking about it consciously at that time, it probably was a reminder that the colour and beauty in people and all life have a finite shelf life.

 

img_0506

One glorious day as Linda and I were walking across the tailings that remain from the gold mining era, de la Mare’s words quietly alerted me to the spectacular splendour surrounding us. I decided to record some of the awesome scenes impacting our senses every day, in a variety of situations. The following are a few excerpts from my growing collection of personal encounters with beauty and colour.

I noticed Phaedra’s golden hair and pretty face at the potluck to raise funds for the Tillotson family after their home burned. She was at a table with her children. I didn’t know her and was hesitant to ask if I could take her picture. Feeling she would bring a touch of colour and interest, I approached her with the question. She looked at me rather quizzically. “Why?” she asked, obviously perplexed at this request from a stranger.

I’m looking for a pretty face for my blog,” I answered.

Phaedra, a lovely young lady.
Phaedra, a lovely young lady.

Her dubious expression suggested she doubted I was serious in selecting her for this role. After a moment of hesitation and consideration, she graciously agreed. Anywhere else I might have been quickly rebuffed, but this is Hedley. And she is pretty.

Beauty on Lynn Wells' yard.
Beauty on Lynn Wells’ yard.

Lynn Wells had a luxurious assortment of sunflower plants this summer. While enjoying a cup of tea with her partner Bill Day, I asked permission to get a few photos. It occurred to me I should have Bill in the midst of that brilliance. He’s a colourful character himself and has an adventurous past.

Bill Day adds his own charm to the beauty.
Bill Day adds his own charm to the beauty.

Linda and I hike up Hospital Hill or along 20 Mile Creek virtually every day. This entails crossing the bridge over the creek. Almost without exception, we stand quietly on the bridge for a few moments, enthralled by the changes that occur in water levels, colours of the trees, the towering mountains around us, the smell of clean air, etc. Each side of the bridge offers its distinctive, attention holding ambiance.

img_0514

This former tailings pond is about a 20 minute walk from town. In summer the growth takes on a shimmering golden hue. In autumn the gold colouring gives way to a rich brown. Surrounded by the green mountains, this majestic scene is always an inspiration. Sometimes we stand quietly, in contemplative awe and silence, overwhelmed by a sense of total insignificance.

Now, in late autumn with winter already whitening the mountain peaks, I’m becoming aware once again that this season, like the others, invites us to “look thy last on all things lovely every hour.”

Hedley Community Club Potluck Fundraiser

3 year old Joey & his birthday cake
3 year old Joey & his birthday cake

The blaze that destroyed the aged Tillotson home in Hedley on Remembrance Day is still stirring hearts in the Similkameen valley and beyond. It was the home of Joan Tillotson, her daughter Amy Schindel, and Amy’s 3 year old son Joey. There were many hugs for the two women at a fund raiser potluck Sunday evening. The highlight for Joey was a cake with candles to celebrate his 3rd birthday.

Amy holding Joey
Amy holding Joey

In a conversation with Amy after the meal, the young mother said “We lost everything, but I have Joey. That’s the most important thing. He was sleeping on a couch when my mother and I stepped out onto the porch for a couple of minutes. I suddenly noticed a glow and ran in. Joey was crying. The fire was spreading so quickly all I could do was pick him up and run out.”

Joey was traumatized,” Joan said. “For a few days, he didn’t talk. He just made noises. Even now he’s frightened when he sees fire, or if there is a loud bang.”

Joan Tillotson
Joan Tillotson

 

I know I should have grabbed my wallet to save my ID,” Joan added, “but it was hot and the house was filling with smoke. It all happened so quickly my mind went blank. We got out with only the clothes we were wearing.”

The Tillotson family moved into the two story house in 1954. Joan was age 4 at the time. Later, as a young adult she moved out.

Amy was the daughter of my sister,” she said. “When my sister died, I adopted Amy. She’s my daughter. My Dad passed away when he was 93 and the house was empty, so we moved back in.”

The potluck, held at the Hedley Community Club, was one of several ongoing fundraisers in the community. It was spearheaded by Doug & TJ Bratt, owners of the Hedley Country Market. TJ said, “The donation box at the store has already garnered approximately one thousand dollars. Pointing to a large jar brimming with donations, she said “There’s probably another five hundred in there.” About 60 people were at the event.

Funds are also being raised by the Hedley Seniors’ Centre and the Hedley Grace Church. Because there was no insurance on the home and everything was burned, there is also a need for clothing and household items. Online donations can be made by transferring funds to amyschindel1008@gmail.com.

The moral support of so many people has been wonderful,” Amy said at the end, a note of emotion in her voice. “There are a lot of good people in this valley.”

Fire Destroys Hedley Home

Fire on hospital hill, photo by Gary Lecomte
Fire on hospital hill,
photo by Gary Lecomte

We virtually never hear the blare of the siren at the Fire Hall, except to announce fire practice Tuesday at 7:00 pm. When we heard it Friday, Nov. 11th, we found it hard to believe there might actually be a fire. Probably not, I thought, but I hurriedly put on shoes and jacket and rushed out to be sure. A huge glow on Hospital Hill quickly caught my attention. In the light of the fire, a black plume of smoke was visible, rising several hundred feet into the dark sky.

It was the Tillotson house, a large, very old 2 story wood structure, the home of Amy Schindel, her young son Joey, and her mother. Set against the mountain, bright orange flames had already engulfed the entire building. The fire department had arrived quickly, and was spraying the trees to ensure the fire would not spread up the mountain.

Fortunately, the 3 occupants had managed to get out of the building safely. We learned later that it had started as a grease fire in the kitchen. It was reported later that they had attempted to extinguish it  with baking soda. But this was not successful and the fire continued to spread quickly.

In the Sunday morning service at the Hedley Grace Church, Pastor Graham Gore, former manager of the Fire Department advised “the best way to extinguish a grease fire is to smother it with a blanket. Never throw water on a grease fire. It just makes it spread more rapidly.”

House destroyed by fire. Photo by Gary Lecomte.
House destroyed by fire. Photo by Gary Lecomte.

Unfortunately the building was not covered by insurance. Several organizations in town are raising money for the family. There is a jar for donations at the Hedley Country Market. The Seniors’ Center and the Hedley Grace church are also inviting contributions. The church has pledged a donation of $200.00 and members are adding to it. Lydia Sawicki has also set up an account for donations to be made directly to Amy by etransfer at amyschindel1008@gmail.com Although several outbuildings were saved, the fire entirely destroyed the main structure.

Remembering Len Roberts

Len Roberts photo: Providence Funeral Homes
Len Roberts
photo: Providence Funeral Homes

My experience with Len began on June 1, 1974. That morning he picked me up from our home in rural Abbotsford to go to Hedley for training. During our 3 hours together in the car, he gave me an extensive verbal tour of the organization’s purpose, philosophy and methods. “We employ unique ministries to establish a common ground with the students. Our goal is to build relationships with them so we can share our life style, values and where appropriate, our faith.” The next morning I received my first hands on experience with Len’s “common ground” concept. Beth Hall, one of the wilderness skills instructors, asked me to join her and 3 girls to do rappelling.

I was behind the others as we walked across a field of brown grass to the rappel site. Observing these street wise girls in their tight jeans and blouses, I wondered if I’d ever be able to work effectively with kids like this. There seemed to be a wide gulf between me and them. They ignored me completely, as though unaware of my presence or existence. We made our way to the top of the high rock face down which we would rappel. I began to see the anxiety in their faces. They must also have seen it in mine. We feared the thought of descending on a rope down that sheer rock face. The rappel process required us to depend on each other for safety, and we began to talk. By the end of the morning we were no longer strangers.

Art Martens with Len Roberts (photo taken 2015)
Art Martens with Len Roberts (photo taken 2015)

Reflecting back on my years with the Foundation this past week, I began to understand more fully what Len had put in place, with Jean’s consistent help. It was Jean who kept the wheels on the rails and the trolley on the tracks.

Initially there were 2 programs, both in Surrey. Each worker was assigned a “squad” of 5 students. Len recognized the need to burn off a lot of excess energy and the program consisted of such activities as swimming, roller and ice hockey, hiking and camping. Camp Colonial in Hedley was purchased and became the wilderness hub. This made possible rappelling, rock climbing, canoeing, map and compass, horseback riding, skiing, and wilderness expeditions like canoeing the Bowron Lakes circuit and back packing in Cathedral Park. During those years Len traveled between Surrey and Hedley on an almost weekly basis. He was away from home and family frequently. It was a huge sacrifice for Len and Jean, and their children.

In time they moved the Foundation headquarters to Hedley. They sold their home in Surrey and the family also moved. The Foundation became like a complex puzzle in which each piece was required to support the whole. Some students lived in staff homes and saw how a husband and wife team interacted with each other and their children. Many students attended the organization’s school, taught by Ann Pinchin, who is here today. Len purchased the former store and reopened it, naming it The Mother Lode. Students were assigned there for work experience. Students were also assigned to the kitchen and dining room to learn culinary and public service skills. The emphasis was always on finding a common ground, developing relationships and winning the right to build positively into the lives of the students.

Our family and friends didn’t understand why anyone would want to live in a hot, remote community that had almost nothing to offer. Amazingly, a lot of young singles came, and stayed, and also young couples with children. That is what kept the Hedley school open as long as the organization was there. They came in large part because Len was able to speak compellingly about his vision for the work. He couldn’t pay high wages but he did offer a fascinating opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people. And he offered an action packed program that was rare at that time, and still is. Young, inexperienced workers obtained work experience and developed skills they could later take elsewhere.

Len could be quite pragmatic. When Ruth Woodin, now the Hedley Post Master, applied for a job in the office, Len said, “I’m looking for someone who won’t get pregnant and quit, or who won’t get married and move away.” He had experienced both. Ruth didn’t do either, and she stayed to the end. She told me “when I was going through a very difficult valley in my life, Len & Jean stood by me all the way. Especially Jean. It was the best job I ever had.”

Len didn’t avoid the long hours and dedication he expected of us. When there was an AWOL, he was out late at night, patrolling the highway. Sometimes his quick mind made the difference. One day I was talking with several students on the top balcony of the Coach House. I noticed Eugene pacing agitatedly. He was an extremely intense, worried kid. I knew what he needed was attention. Before I could get to him, he slipped away and was running down the hill to the highway, obviously emotionally out of control. I went onto my radio handset to alert our workers. At the same time, Len was in his red toyota, coming down the hill from the Lodge toward town. He heard my call, pulled alongside Eugene and opened the door. “Quick get in before they get you!” he said. Relieved, Eugene got in and felt safe.

Did the Foundation make a difference? Ruth Woodin thinks it did. “A number of former students have come into the Post Office,” she told me. Again and again they said, “I was a kid in a program here. It turned my life around.”During the Foundation years, I knew Len as a boss and to some extent a friend. I understood his need to maintain some distance so people wouldn’t crowd him too much. Everyone wanted to ask him a question.

When a new government closed the Foundation doors in 1993, Linda and I kept in touch with Len and Jean. We saw that this was a difficult time for everyone. For Len and Jean it was especially difficult. They had invested many years of their lives in this work, now they needed to wrap it up.

We moved back to Hedley about 4 years ago and our home needed improvements. Len offered to help with a plumbing project. Then he and a friend replaced all windows and doors. They also drywalled almost the entire lower floor. They did it at a price no one else could touch. He had once run a complex organization. Now he was willing to work with a hammer, wrench and screwdriver without grumbling. We felt he wanted to help us.

After returning to Hedley, our friendship with Len & Jean deepened. Over the past few years they had numerous medical appointments in Penticton, and they at times stopped in at our place on their way home. Over coffee, Len would regale us with details about medical procedures and interactions with doctors, nurses and other patients. We could tell that at times his sense of humour had made the appointment entertaining for those who dealt with him.

For many Len Roberts was rare and special. For Linda and me he became a valued friend.

And of course, we continue to value Jean as a dear friend.

Gary Clarke, Del Riemer, Jim Martin, 3 of the many former staff that attended the Celebration of Life on Oct. 29, 2016
Gary Clarke, Del Riemer, Jim Martin, 3 of the many former staff that attended the Celebration of Life on Oct. 29, 2016

Candace Has Run!

img_3098

During my years working with young offenders at the One Way Adventure Foundation in Hedley, we at times had students run away, especially from the Residential Attendance Program (RAP). The students in RAP were sent by a judge and were deemed among the most difficult and devious. When they arrived, most were burdened by a history of failure, a gnawing sense of despair.

Pretty 15 year old Candace was in this program and when I heard on my 2-way radio that she had just run, I was disappointed but not particularly surprised. Possibly the prettiest female student ever assigned to RAP, at times she was also the loneliest and saddest. The referring probation officer had expressed concern she was drifting inexorably into drug using associations and a criminal culture. The judge said, “By sending you to Hedley, I’m giving you a chance to think about your life.”

From the beginning, Candace exhibited a volatile emotional state. In her happy moments she brushed her black shoulder length hair until it shone in the Hedley sun. At such times she wore clean jeans and usually a white blouse. Her effervescent laughter lifted the spirits of those around her. In these happy moments, she sparkled and could have been a successful beauty queen contestant. On group outings to Penticton, men sometimes gazed at her unabashedly.

Now dusk was already approaching. She must have hoped she could elude us in the coming darkness. Almost certainly her plan was to get to the # 3 highway, which passed through our community. With her attractive face and pleasing figure, any trucker would be quick to stop.

Fortunately she didn’t get that far. “She’s on the rock bluff overlooking the highway,” the voice on the radio announced. “Threatening to jump.”

Already I saw her slim figure high on the bluff, facing away from me toward the other side where several staff were gathered, anxiously looking upward. From this high perch I faintly heard her voice, tinged with desperate despondency. “You come up and I’ll jump!” Strenuous urging to come down might cause her to become unhinged mentally and emotionally. She needed time. I realized though that even if we waited, inner turmoil might compel her to leap.

Intent on keeping those on the other side of the bluff under surveillance, she had not noticed me. Realizing I was out of her line of sight, I began climbing up the unstable shale, proceeding carefully so I wouldn’t send chunks of rock clattering down.

After climbing steadily for about 10 minutes, my upper body was at a level where I could see her standing, no more than 4 meters away. Not wanting her to think I might attempt to seize her, I didn’t ascend higher.

When she ceased shouting down at the workers, I said quietly, “Candace, I’m here. I won’t come closer.”

Surprised, she turned to face me, then sat down resignedly on a large rock. “It’s no use Art,” she said. “I’m tired of trying. It’s too hard. No one cares.” A tear trickled slowly down one cheek. I knew the workers closest to her cared deeply, but we were not her family. “My mom and sisters have come once in 3 months. The farther away I am, the better they like it.” She brushed away the tear.

You’re very special to everyone here,” I said.

Without my family, I have nothing.” She turned toward the darkening valley. “Don’t come close,” she warned. “I don’t want to talk anymore.”

Although I felt she had come to trust me somewhat during the past 3 months, she was now shutting me out. The workers below realized someone was attempting to engage her and had grown silent. I was concerned that once darkness settled in, her gloom would become more intense. Sensing she had drifted into a realm beyond my reach, I whispered a desperate silent prayer. Even now I don’t know if I expected an answer. “Candace,” I said. “I’ve been asking God to put his arms around you and keep you safe.”

She sat unresponsive for a long moment and I wondered if she had heard my words. Then, in the fading light I saw her rise and silently come in my direction. Not knowing what to expect, I stepped aside on the shale. She passed and cautiously began descending. Candace had found hope for another day.