Jean Alderdice Scott Roe: Mother. Volunteer. Journalist. Humanitarian. Born Dec. 17, 1922, in Botwood, Nfld.; died April 17, 2018 in White Rock, B.C.; of organ failure; age 95.
Jean Roe was a gulf stream of good deeds with an irreverent sense of humour who had a penchant for getting things done.
“So, what’s everyone doing?” she asked her family gathered around her palliative care bed where she lay semi-reclined in her blue hospital gown, oxygen tube wrapped around her ears, IV drip fastened to her fragile arm. She was not expecting to pass away, right away, so there was still time to accomplish something. “Go for a nice walk. Go have lunch. I’m all right.” She wanted us to take advantage of the time we had together.
Jean was born in Newfoundland before it became part of Canada. She grew up in Corner Brook and eventually led the United Service Organization there during the Second World War. She talked fondly of dancing morning, noon and night with the soldiers on leave. After the war, she became an executive secretary at the Bowater pulp and paper mill and would talk proudly about organizing and hosting martini parties at Strawberry Hill mansion for Sir Eric Bowater and his attaché, Dervish Duma. Apparently, after a few notoriously strong cocktails, the dignified women in attendance would sink into the wet grass and stagger about the lawns rather unladylike.
In 1954, she married James Browning Roe who was editor of the Western Star, Corner Brook’s daily newspaper. In 1956, with their year-old daughter Jennifer in tow, they moved to Vancouver to pursue his career. Jean had written for the Western Star, and continued to work in journalism out West for the Regina Leader-Post, the Moose Jaw Times-Herald and the Swift Current Sun. In Vancouver, three more daughters were added to the family: Elizabeth, Cate and Charlotte.
Even with four children under the age of five, Mom continued to volunteer – in a big way – and three decades later she would become a Member of the Order of Canada for volunteerism. She also received the 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal, two Queen’s Jubilee Medals and dozens of other local, provincial and national citations.
Her kindness crossed international borders. In 1999, she wrote to a Canadian commanding officer to inquire how she might send 100 pairs of mittens she and her church friends had knit for children in Kosovo. She thought they might enjoy receiving these at Christmastime. In December of that year, she received a letter from a captain in Kosovo detailing the delivery of their hand-knit gifts. “I have enclosed a few photographs … so you can see the conditions in the area, and more importantly the smiles you have brought to the children’s faces here.”
Last fall, Jean attended an event at UBC marking the 50th anniversary of the Order of Canada and 150th anniversary of Confederation. She held her own with other honorees including an astrophysicist, a marine biologist and a knight. She told them a Newfie joke. She was the belle of the ball.
Jean’s ashes have “gone home" to Newfoundland to rest in peace. If you hear some soft clicking sounds someday, it may be our Mom knitting in heaven.
Charlotte Phillips is Jean’s youngest daughter.
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