Category Archives: People

Bill Day: A Force in Adult Education (part 2 of 2)

 

Bill Day & Lynn Wells at Hedley Farmers Market
Bill Day & Lynn Wells at Hedley Farmers Market

Bill had the good sense to accept the advice of his mill foreman and returned to university. After completing his training, he began his teaching career in Quesnel.  Here he taught during the day and tutored Italian railroad workers in English four evenings a week. Subsequently he taught in Maple Ridge, continuing to teach English at night, and then accepted a role in Surrey as one of the first full-time Adult Education administrators in B.C.

His growing experience and expertise in Adult Education brought an invitation to go to India for a year, to advise the Rajasthan State government in this field. “They didn’t really need me,” he says, “I learned from them and it was a wonderful experience. I loved India.”

Upon returning to Canada, he was asked to plan the development of Douglas College. He subsequently became Dean of Continuing Education and then served as President for 15 years. He also wrote feasibility studies for two other Community Colleges.

Bill considers himself very fortunate. “Until I retired,” he says, “I was always in the right place at the right time. I served under people for whom I had great admiration.”

Observing him participate in the community organizations of Hedley, it quickly becomes evident that Bill’s good fortune had less to do with luck than with preparation and the willingness to do what is needed.  Undoubtedly, a positive outlook and a touch of charm helped too. His partner Lynn Wells describes him as “a hard worker, very bright, personable and proactive.”

Understanding that everyone appreciates recognition, he gives it quickly and enthusiastically. He is convinced that by working collaboratively, a community can accomplish what seems impossible. This positive, proactive thinking has many times attracted the attention of people in authority and power. For his work in Adult and International Education, Bill was awarded the Order of Canada.  Then, after official retirement, to his great amazement, he received a call from Ottawa offering him a position as Citizenship Judge.

“I was certain at first they had the wrong Bill Day,” he recalls.  “When they assured me they didn’t, I was thunderstruck.”  Pausing as though reliving that moment he says, “it was very affirming. It told me I had actually done a good job.” “I loved the work and carried on for ten more years until I reached mandatory retirement at 76.”

Bill is still doing a good job, even if he doesn’t get paid for it now.  At the Hedley Museum he said to the Directors, “tell me what you need done and I’ll do it.”  Last year he spoke at Hedley’s Canada Day celebration and also at the Remembrance Day ceremony.  He is currently spearheading the development of Unity Park in Hedley.  He and Lynn are “devoted” volunteers at the Princeton Traditional Music Festival. This morning, before our visit, he painted woodwork and washed windows at the Seniors’ Centre.

After sitting across the table with Bill and Lynn for over an hour, I realized that his mind hadn’t lost its focus even for a moment.  He is optimistic, bright, high octane, apparently healthy, and community minded.  I wasn’t surprised when he said at the end of our time together, “it’s being a great life.”

Life and Times of Carrie Allison (Part 1 of 2)

Although as a child Carrie Allison completed only the fourth Carrie has a green thumbgrade, I came away from a two hour visit with her feeling I’d been educated in history and wisdom. She was sent from her home in the Merritt area where she was born, to a residential school in Kamloops at age 8 and was educated there until age 12.

Carrie is now 83 and even though her experience in the residential school wasn’t as horrific as what we often hear about in the media, the memories still haunt her. A note of sadness creeps into her voice when she says, “my dreams about it are always bad. In one dream I hearing a baby crying at night, but it is dark and I can’t find it.”

She pauses a moment to reflect, then continues. “I was away from home 10 months at a time. There wasn’t enough to eat and I was always hungry. We ate in the same room as the staff, and we could see they had meat on their plates. We were given only vegetable soup and one slice of bread. At Easter they gave us one egg with our meal. I knew mostly the language of my people, but I was punished if I spoke it. In winter they made us walk to town. My hands and feet got really cold. We weren’t allowed to talk to the boys or even look at them. We were in the classroom half a day, the rest of the day we had to work. The girls cleaned up the dormitories, the priest’s room, the hallways, play room and dining hall.”

Knowing she looks after the diminutive white chapel situated on a bluff overlooking the Similkameen Valley, not far from Hedley going toward Keremeos, I ask why she is still involved with the Catholic faith. Many would have turned their backs on the faith because of the pain caused by the school experiences.

“People sometimes ask me that,” she answers. “I tell them God didn’t do that to me. It was people. I never look back. I tell the kids to always look ahead and try to make something of themselves.”

Carrie never knew her father. Fortunately her mother was deeply committed to her family and Carrie speaks of her as a wonderful role model. “She was very small,” she says. “She tanned hides and traded them in town. She also made gloves and moccasins.”

Carrie recalls clearly the injunction of her mother to “take care of yourself. No drinking. Before you go away, do the dishes and clean the house.”

Now a mother and grandmother herself, she does all she can to pass on the values of the older generation. “Young kids don’t know what we went through,” she says with a perceptible hint of disappointment. “Sometimes I think we should take them back to our time. No electricity, no indoor bathroom. We had to pack water from the river. Mom didn’t have a washing machine so she carried her laundry to the river. She heated water in a tub there and after she washed the clothes, she hung them on branches.”

I sense now that in her mind she is reliving those times. “Sometimes we bathed in the river. In winter we heated water in the tub and bathed there. Those were happy days. I was with my family.”

 

Life and Times of Carrie Allison (part 2 of 2)

In 1942 Carrie’s mother married a member of the Upper Carrie in her homeSimilkameen Band and they moved to Hedley. “The town looked new to me then,” she says. “People dressed up.
I saw ladies wearing hats and white gloves.” She recalls they could flag down the Great Northern train and catch a ride to Oroville.

When she was 12, her stepfather took her to the home of Charlie Allison, at that time band chief. Here she met Edward (Slim) Allison, her future husband. Slim was told by the Indian Agent, “you should be on the band council. You can read and write.” In time, Slim became band chief. When he was in this role, she worried about him. “You can’t please everybody,” she says, again experiencing the concern she had for her husband at that time.

“Slim always gave me the pay from his work at the sawmill in Princeton.” I sense her pride as she remembers how responsible he was about finances. “He told me to pay the bills and if there was anything left, I could give him some.”

At age 40, Carrie attended 3 semesters of academic upgrading. Someone at the school suggested she enter a hair styling course. She accepted this advice and registered for a course in Vernon. For the last two weeks of the course she made the long trip from Hedley to Vernon every day. Having had my hair cut by her many years ago, I still recall her cheery attitude and words as she clipped.

Now at an age when no one would be critical if she retired to a rocking chair, Carrie gives little indication she is ready to slow her pace. In addition to cleaning the little chapel, once a year she hires boys to harvest the weeds from the adjacent cemetery. Records indicate the chapel was likely built in 1901 and she feels a responsibility to those who made it a reality at a time when remoteness of the area made this difficult. “I think of the old people who worked so hard to bring the lumber and windows and other supplies here to build it,” she says. “We should keep it up in their honour.” When there are 5 Sundays in a month, the priest comes and she attends the service. In winter she often invites the people to meet in her home, due to lack of adequate heat in the chapel.

“It is important to preserve the Indian culture and ways,” Carrie says. “I’m learning a prayer in the band language. I don’t want the language to be lost. Not many can speak it anymore.”

On the first Wednesday of each month she attends an elders lunch in Keremeos. She still sews quilts. “I tried making moccasins, but I’m not good at it.”

Carrie is a committed fan of early Country and Western music. “When I was in Nashville,” she tells me, “I saw Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Earnest Tubb and Kitty Wells.” When I ask if she likes Jerry Lee Lewis, famous for his Great Balls of Fire hit, her response is enthusiastic. “Oh yes. I like him.”

Carrie has experience, wisdom and an enthusiasm for life that many with a Masters Degree would envy.

 

View Looking West From Carrie's House
View Looking West From Carrie’s House

 

The Lesson Of Leona’s Commitment

 free_18764562Several years ago my cousin Leona was told that her husband Vic showed early indications of Parkinson’s, plus another equally debilitating condition for which as yet there is no cure. Vic had worked for BC Hydro and had also built a number of homes after retirement.  They are now living in the most recent home, a well designed structure that speaks of a master builder’s wonderful attention to detail.

With her buoyant personality, sense of humor and  capacity to commit, Leona has also experienced a good deal of success.  In an earlier career as a realtor, she was easily in the top ten percent in listings and in sales.  To help their sons get started in business, she entered into a partnership with them and they opened an eye glass outlet.  Based on a bedrock of integrity and excellent service, the business did well. Before long they expanded to other centers and into the hearing aid field.

Then came the diagnosis that caused Vic to lay down his hammer and saw and hang up the ladder in his garage for the last time.  Leona’s participation in the business venture with their sons didn’t cease entirely, but she resolved to make Vic her #1 priority.                                                                                                                                

 Under her fun loving, quick to laugh exterior,  there abides a deep commitment to her husband.  He isn’t someone to be discarded when difficult circumstances arise.  She thinks of him as her life partner.  “We are going to ride this out together,” she says.                                                                                                                          

“I’m going to keep him at home as long as I can manage.  If it becomes necessary, I’ll mortgage our house to keep him here.”  Vic’s condition presents some difficult challenges and she has already hired live in help.

When we visited at their home recently, Linda and I were impressed by Leona’s total commitment to him.  “I won’t sell his pickup truck or his work trailer,” she said.  “And I won’t get rid of his tools.  That is all part of who he has always been.  I won’t take them away from him.”

Leona’s determination to maintain a comfortable, undisturbed atmosphere in the home is proving to be helpful to Vic.  When we were there, he appeared relaxed and seemed to be enjoying life.

A week before Leona’s recent birthday, he began each day by wishing her a happy birthday.  Each day she said, “no, it’s not my birthday yet.”  When her birthday did arrive, she responded to his happy birthday wish by saying, “yes Vic, today is my birthday.”  He said, “I just didn’t want to forget.”

For Linda and me there is a valuable lesson in Leona’s unswerving commitment to Vic. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Popular Abbotsford Blogger Inspired Many

 

A stranger might have assumed that a recent Celebration of Life at Abbotsford Pentecostal Assembly was for a political or entertainment celebrity. The spacious main floor of the sanctuary was crowded to capacity In a sense, popular Abbotsford blogger Kristin Erickson was a celebrity, but not for the usual reasons. She was a 41 year old wife, and the mother of 4 children.

On October 29, 2012 she was told she had cancer, and began writing in a wonderfully engaging and poignant manner about her battle against the illness. She wrote of excruciating pain, of radiation and chemotherapy, of surgery to remove a kidney, of her love for her husband and children and the joyous moments with them, of her trust in God, and much more.

Like thousands of her readers, I never met Kristin, but came to feel I knew her.  In the relatively brief time of her illness, there were approximately 150,000 visits to her blog, ( which you can find at canadiankristinconnected.blogspot.ca). In spite of the tests, many days lying in a hospital bed, the numbing pain, her diminishing strength, she had a powerful desire to communicate with readers.

To the end, she was determined to spend quality time with her husband and children. She expressed deep appreciation for the support of family and friends. She praised doctors and nurses for their attention and care. Repeatedly, her trust in God and her love for people crept into her writing.

She battled on courageously to the end, always clinging to hope, never allowing bitterness to overshadow her predominantly positive message. Kristin’s love of life and people, her humour and courage inspired readers around the globe. Many responded with notes of appreciation and encouragement.

She leaves behind a legacy that many celebrities would envy.

 

My Friend John

For about 2 years I’ve been observing an 85 year old man at Menno Hospital where my father is a resident. This man, John, is not a resident but a visitor. He comes in at 10 am to spend time with his wife Teresa 7 days a week. The fact that Teresa has Alzheimers and does not recognize him seems not to deter him. “I still recognize her,” he told me. John feeds Teresa lunch and dinner, addressing her lovingly as “sweetie”.

When he was told to come in for a minor surgical procedure at the General Hospital, he said,”you’ll have to give me a different time, that is when I feed my wife.” At mealtimes he puts aprons on the other residents and has a cheery word for each one. Sometimes he comes to my Dad and gives him a quick back rub. Often I hear him whistling, as though to give expression to an inner delight.

Inspite of his age and some personal health challenges, John is absolutely and wonderfully committed to Teresa and to the other residents. When I see him leave sometime after 6 in the evening, I often notice that his feet seem a little heavier, and his expression is more serious. Even so, there is an aura about him that suggests he feels fulfilled at having once again lived up to his commitment to the woman he still loves deeply.

Observing John, I have decided that he has learned to live with a sense of abundance and joy. Without realizing it, he has become a mentor to myself and also to many of the workers at Menno Hospital.