At the pace she keeps, one would never guess Dee Read’s age.
Born in Biorra, Éire (Ireland), in 1932, Désirée (Dee) Read celebrated her 90th birthday with a tea for family, friends and her church family on May 17.
Read attended nursing school in Belfast from 1951-1955, and continued her schooling for another two years, specializing in midwifery and obstetrics.
Belfast is also where, in 1956, she met her husband Norman who was serving in the National Service. They married in 1957 and moved to Huddersfield, England, where Norman worked as an architectural engineer and Dee worked for the maternity hospital.
In 1958, Norman signed on with the Ministry of Forestry in B.C., as an engineer for forestry roads, so the Reads packed up and headed for Victoria, B.C.
They adventured on their way taking a steamer to Halifax, and train across Canada, which Dee said was a magnificent way to see the new country they were to live in.
Once in Victoria, Norman settled into his new job, and Dee was busy with their three young children, Beryl, Elaine and Peter.
They spent 11 years in Victoria, but most summers they would bring a trailer to the Bulkley Valley, as Norman worked from the regional head office for forestry in Prince Rupert. Norman ended up engineering most of the BC forestry roads in and around the Bulkley Valley.
Dee and the children found adventures everywhere they went during these summers and fell in love with the Bulkley Valley, especially Round Lake.
It was not a difficult decision for the family to make the move to the Bulkley Valley when Norman was promoted to district engineer from Hazelton to Houston in 1969.
They found a home they loved on Round Lake that was close enough to Smithers for both Dee and Norman to work.
In the early 1970s, Norman started his own engineering business called Yellowhead Engineering, and Dee started working at the hospital in Smithers in the surgical and maternity units.
A decade later, Dee began a pilot program for the doctors and hospital in home nursing. She worked four hours a day, five days a week with the aim of teaching patients coming out of surgeries and home from the hospital how to care for themselves.
“I would receive referrals from the doctors for post-op, and medical discharges as it was originally set out, but within the year we had so many patients I became full-time and we hired two more nurses,” Dee said.
The pilot program was made permanent, eventually folded into Northern Health and runs to this day.
Another program that came from Dee’s nursing days, which is still running, is the Hospice Society. Dee saw the need for home hospice care and eventually palliative care at the hospital, and set about gathering the support of the doctors and nurses and many volunteers to set the program up. Some of the same people who started with the society along with Dee, are still there volunteering, Dee said, adding she is amazed by their dedication.
Norman continued his work with Yellowhead Engineering, and contracts that would take him to many places around the world. Dee went with him once to Rome, which she said was a delight, but she was mostly busy with her nursing, hospice care, the three children and the hobby farm at Round Lake.
Both Norman and Dee were strong in their faith and worked raising funds for their church and many various charities.
Dee speaks fondly of the Quick Anglican Church of St. John the Divine, where she and Norman were caretakers, and Dee still is.
After Norman passed in 2000, Dee didn’t slow down in her activities.
She has volunteered her time, energy and financial assistance for decades at Camp Caledonia and various charities through her churches. She is an accomplished sportswoman and an avid golfer, loves all types of crafting, especially knitting, and helping others to learn.
She hosts book clubs, plays cards, is well known for her baked goodies, and loves to go on walks with her friends.
But it is her family that brings Dee to gales of laughter. Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are very close. Having family dinners at one or another’s house most days of the week, and grand holiday dinners are a “must” according to one of her grandsons.
The family pranks and traditions are funny and precious to anyone fortunate enough to be told the stories. One particular family prank started on St. Patrick’s Day and continued all the way to needing an obituary for two leprechauns in The Interior News, to lay the tradition to rest. The creativity and fun the family have brought to one another has seen Dee right in the middle of it all, instigating, with a twinkle in her eye, all the fun.
Dee officially retired from nursing in 1997, although she still volunteers for the Hospice Society, among the many charities to which she still gives freely of her time.
Dee will take a voyage back to Ireland this summer, as a birthday present, with her son and daughter-in-law, to visit with family, a trip she looks forward to after the last couple of COVID years at home.
Despite having had such a significant impact with important programs and initiatives in the Bulkley Valley and all of her volunteer efforts, Dee cannot see “what all the fuss over me is about,” stating, “surely you can find more interesting people to write about than me!”