Long-term Kamloops resident, Joan Wilson, has left a remarkable legacy gift to Royal Inland Hospital Foundation and the YMCA-YWCA. Her donation of $100,000 to each is a reflection of her involvement in, and love of, the community.
Joan’s life journey began far from Kamloops, in Blackpool England. Her life was rather usual until tragedy struck the family when Joan was only 13 years old – her mother passed away and Joan was left to raise three younger sisters. Fortunately for Joan, her grandmother was an essential resource when it came to running a house, raising children, and choosing a career path. After Joan contracted TB and spent months in a sanatorium, recovering while at the same time helping the nurses, her grandmother encouraged her to take up a career in nursing. Joan did just that, becoming a nurse at the age of 21, and later becoming a qualified midwife. As with the popular TV series ‘Call the Midwife’, Joan rode her bike to visit her patients.
In 1953, Joan met her husband, Brian. They were both looking for a change in life and after seeing a sign at the library encouraging immigration to Canada, they decided then and there to move to Canada in search of a better life. They found it here in Kamloops, where they lived happily for over sixty years. Brian worked in various businesses in the city, including in the meat department at the old Woodward’s Department Store, where the current BCLC is located.
Joan was a nurse and started off in Kamloops at Royal Inland Hospital, moving to work in public health, rising through the ranks to become Head Nurse of the Health Unit on the North Shore. She estimated that in her career as a midwife in both England and Canada, she delivered over 2,000 babies. She was also an experienced reflexologist, treating patients who were looking for alternative treatments. Part of her work included driving up the North Thompson, often in the winter when the roads were treacherous. Fortunately, many of the truckers would wait for her and would escort her to make sure that she arrived safely. Her visits included remote communities where others feared to go, but Joan was determined and could not be dissuaded. She had a mission, not only to treat, but also to educate. In fact, Joan was driven her entire adult life to educate the community regarding public health. Both Joan and Brian were both extremely happy with their choice to settle in Kamloops, taking advantage of all the area has to offer – living on a small ranch, raising horses, hiking, gardening, skiing, and golfing.
According to Colin Reid, CEO-YMCA-YWCA, “Joan Wilson was a long-time member, supporter, leader and general cheer leader for the Kamloops Y. She lived a life where she contributed to individual and community health. Joan was a regular participant in Y activities and she was keen to share her thoughts about how the Y was serving the community and she was always willing to do her part. Her gift is a legacy that has come at just the right time and it is an example of her belief in being a steward for future generations. Thank you Joan!”
Brian passed away in 2016 and was greatly missed by Joan. But her life and work continued and she was actively involved with the RiverBend community, as the blood pressure go-to-person and as the columnist for ‘About Your Health’ in the Mainstream newsletter. Joan was also a regular member of the aquafit classes at the YMCA. Giving back was Joan’s way of showing her appreciation to the community. As she was quoted in the Mainstream, “I hope that our citizens never lose the special ‘thing’ that makes Canadians so loved throughout the world – so very special.”
Joan also was involved in the formation of two organizations: the Women’s Shelter and Cottonwood Manors seniors housing, and served as a volunteer and President for the Senior’s Outreach and the Kamloops Liaison Council for Seniors. Joan also worked with Safeway on the North Shore to create a seniors day, where seniors would get a cup of tea and cookies, as well as help with their shopping. In recognition of her significant contributions to the community, Joan received a Special Community Contribution Certificate, signed and sealed by Kamloops’ Member of Parliament, the Hon. Nelson Riis.
Heidi Coleman, CEO-RIH Foundation, commented on the donation saying, “Joan Wilson’s legacy gift is a wonderful donation. Through this gift, even though she is no longer with us, she has ensured that the community she cared so much about will continue to benefit from her generosity.”
It was Joan’s sense of humour and cheekiness that made her dearly loved by her friends. When she passed away on March 8, 2020 at the Marjorie Willoughby Snowden Hospice House, the Kamloops community lost a compassionate role-model. But her legacy will continue and her generous gifts to the YMCA-YWCA and the Foundation will benefit many generations to come.