Wife, grandmother, nurse, cook, problem solver. Born Jan. 19, 1947, in Moncton, died Aug. 19, 2012, in Moncton, of long-term complications from a surgical error, aged 65.
Perhaps Beth held a certain foresight that her life would be shortened, because she filled every day she was given to the brim.
Her favourite expression was, “The death rate is very low from dust on the piano.” Beth put all of her energy into helping others. This made her feel fulfilled, alive and truly happy.
Beth was the eldest of six children born to Bill and Peggy West, who met during wartime while both were stationed in England. Beth inherited her parents’ commitment to serving others and began a career in nursing after high school.
While she was working at the hospital one evening, a young man named Neil Sparks came into the emergency room with a broken arm and his brother, Ron, in tow. Beth caught Ron’s eye, and they exchanged phone numbers through a security guard. They eloped a few months later and got married in Halifax. Their first son, Jeffrey, was born the next year followed by triplets Michael, David and Joann the year after that.
Life came fast and furious, but Beth thrived on its demands with humour and grace. She built a respected career in nursing, receiving many awards for her vast contributions to her beloved profession. When her children were launched into university, Beth launched herself there, too. She graduated with a master’s degree in nursing at the same convocation as her son David.
Beth was a gifted seamstress who would always offer to take up a friend’s hemline. She sewed costumes for church pageants, made gifts for colleagues and friends and created a few beautiful wedding dresses. She was a faithful member of St. Paul’s United Church, where she volunteered in many roles. Along with her dear friend, Bev Ring, Beth implemented a community hospice.
Especially known for her incredible cooking, she entertained often. It was nothing for her to host a turkey dinner with 10 side dishes and six homemade desserts. When illness limited her ability to get into the kitchen, she wrote a cookbook containing her favourite recipes titled Beth’s Best.
Beth was one of those people who often happened to be in a place of need at the right moment. She instinctively acted as a first responder on the scenes of car accidents, and once inadvertently walked into an armed robbery at a jewelry store. Thinking someone was injured, she said: “I’m a nurse, can I help?”
In 2001, Beth underwent what should have been a routine heart ablation. During the procedure, her heart was accidentally perforated. Her entire body was affected by the injury, and during her last 11 years she suffered virtually every pain and indignity that poor health could bring.
At the end of her life, Beth was lovingly cared for by a team of nurses and doctors with whom she had worked. There were many laughs and tears shared in her room.
She is terribly missed, but those who loved her are finding solace and inspiration in all that she taught about truly living and being in the world.
Joann Mallett is Beth’s daughter.