For Canada's Women’s History Month in October, Touchmark recognizes this exceptional female resident who has defied the odds in her personal and professional life as well as shows exceptional examples of leadership in our community.
Who was a strong female influence in your life?
My mother was a big influence in my life. She was a single parent and worked very hard in a man’s job, six days a week. During the war years, she was a very strong woman and worked at Capital City Box Factory as a Foreman. She did what needed to be done, and even though we didn’t have much, her door was always open to help others.
That’s how I live my life today, doing what needs to be done and helping in whatever ways I can.
Please tell us about your personal and professional background.
I’ve been married to my husband Robin for 66 years (we met at 14 at a teen dance). We have five children, 16 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren (and possibly more to come).
Career-wise, it’s a funny story. When I was 13, I met a little boy named Johnny on his tricycle in front of our rental, and we got to chatting. That evening a man came to the door and asked if I babysat. His little boy, Johnny, had come home and told them all about me. That was the beginning of what would be my future, as I had to quit school at the end of Grade 11. I had intended to go into nursing, but my mother needed my help and asked me to quit school and start working.
Mr. Killick, Johnny’s father, was the Head Geologist for Texaco Exploration, and he offered me a job that summer between Grades 10 and 11, as well as a full-time job when I had to quit school. I worked for Texaco in the geology department doing scout reports and typing. From there, I moved into the accounting department, typing their figures and monthly reports. I ended up moving up to a position in the engineering department as a stenographer and worked there until I was married and expecting our first child. Robin and I went on and had five children, and I was a stay-at-home mom for a while.
Several years later, I decided to go back to work. I heard Texaco was hiring a switchboard operator, and when I applied was told they stopped interviewing right then as so many personnel I had worked for were still there and were happy to have me back. From the switchboard, I went on to working full-time in engineering doing filing, typing, and worked as a stenographer for six years and then 12 years after that part-time.
Who would have thought being kind to a little boy on a bicycle would have given me so much?
Did you face any obstacles in your career, and how did you overcome them?
With having to quit school at Grade 11 and working full-time, I made sure I was early to work and late to leave.
A good attitude will take you far, and because I was eager to learn new things, my co-workers were willing to teach me new things.
Also, it was a balance trying to fit in working and raising five children. When I returned to work after having my kids, I continually pressed management about the idea of job sharing, and they finally agreed. So after six years of working full-time, my co-worker and I were able to share the job as a stenographer in the engineering department; I worked two days per week and she worked three. It worked wonderfully for 12 more years until I decided to retire in 1992.
Please tell us about your passion for volunteering.
Growing up, we didn’t have much, but we were blessed with a lot of help along the way from many generous people, which is why I like to give back, volunteer, and help where I can.
When I was 9 to 10 years old, I collected grease in pails for the war effort and knitted squares for the Red Cross.
I enjoyed delivering gifts to children for Santa’s Anonymous from 1997 - 2000.
I volunteered with the Christmas Bureau, working in the office as well as packing food hampers and delivering them from 1997 - 2003.
From the mid-1990s to 2008, I delivered Meals on Wheels (a local nonprofit and registered charitable organization that provides home-delivered meal and food services to housebound residents). I also worked in their office and kitchen packing cookies.
Upon moving to Touchmark at Wedgewood 11 years ago, I started a new volunteering venture with some fellow residents. I would pick up packed bread donated from the Sobeys and Co-op grocery store across the street for the Food Bank and various missions in the district. I worked alongside fellow Touchmark Residents Ed Bakker and Don Smailes, who then took the bread to the charitable organizations.
From 2010 - 2012 I worked with fellow Touchmark Resident Donna Parchewsky and her church for Hosea Ministries. We made sandwiches at the church and delivered them on Monday nights to the streets downtown. They are a wonderful group of people who like to help.
From 2011 - 2019 I started working on my own, and I became very busy collecting clothing from a local Mennonite thrift shop and getting all the sweets, chips, chocolate, cookies that our generous grocery stores could donate for me to deliver. These connections were wonderful.
Even around the Touchmark building, I became known as the “bag lady.” People dropped off clothing at the front desk for me to bring to the streets and those in need. Everyone was so generous.
I have since had to put many of these volunteer activities on hold due to cancer treatments, but I plan to go back out there as soon as I am able to do so.
Why do you do it?
My mother’s door was always open to anyone in need. Like I said earlier, we didn’t have much, but she always shared. She always said, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” She was a very strong lady and one of the most non-prejudicial people I have ever met.
What do you enjoy most about the volunteer work you do?
Seeing how my mother influenced me, I hope I am influencing my own children and grandchildren to do their part. In fact, in one special instance, my granddaughter took her Christmas money and gave it to me to donate it to the work I do on the streets in delivering items to those less fortunate. With her donation, we bought 1,000 Ice Cream Dixie Cups to hand out to the happy group outside of the mission downtown.
Outside of your family, what are the other accomplishments in your life of which you are most proud?
Working with the homeless has honestly been very near and dear to my heart, and I’m so grateful I’ve been able to do the work I have done with them all of these years.
What other activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
Living at Touchmark keeps me busy! I love spending time with my husband Robin and all of my friends here. I have enjoyed working in our little Touchmark store, serving at our community Happy Hour get-togethers, singing in the Touchmark Glee Club, quilting, reading, and doing puzzles.