Wednesday, May 22, 2024
May 22, 2024


Joan Calderhead

May 7, 1920 – April 16, 2015

Joan Calderhead (nee Costello) died in Vancouver on April 16, 2015, aged 94. She was predeceased by her husband Gordon and daughter Veronica, and survived by 7 children, Peter (Pam), Elizabeth (John), Paul (Meiling), Vincent (Claire), Stephen (Joyce), Dan (Jocelyn), and Joan (Peter), and 15 grandchildren. She began life on May 7, 1920, in Vancouver and was raised during periods of prosperity, the Great Depression and war. The latter two shaped her values, resulting in a strong sense of compassion; “They’re a person, darn it!” she’d remind her children if she overheard them make a demeaning comment. Joan obtained a social work degree at UBC and a master’s from McGill. Joan embraced people from all walks of life, took an interest in their lives, and had the ability to make them feel welcome. She loved nature and other cultures.

After her marriage to Gordon in 1946, the young couple left BC for secure employment in Nobel, Ontario. From there, Joan and Gordon relocated to Québec in the winter of 1955 and found themselves in the midst of Duplessis’ Québec. These two young, anglophone professionals experienced a kind of culture shock as they immersed themselves in pre-Quiet Revolution Québec, a place where schooling, lifestyle and even the Catholic Church itself bore little resemblance to Joan’s home parish of St. Augustine’s in Kitsilano. But thrive they did. Joan bore 5 more children, all of whom attended some level of French language education. When Joan and Gordon left Mont St. Hilaire in the fall of 1985 to return to BC, it was with extremely heavy hearts. Joan simply loved Québec.

Joan and Gordon retired to Salt Spring Island, BC, where they made many new friends, while maintaining warm ties with old ones from Québec. Joan and Gordon’s children and grandchildren were frequent visitors who grew to share their love of the Island. In Ganges, Joan regularly volunteered as a driver and also did hospice work. She continued to rise early, often being one of the first through the door at Thrifty’s to get provisions for the day.

Later in life, Joan returned to her roots in Vancouver, where, at the very end, she found herself as a neighbour of her older cousin, Carmelita O’Hagan.

Joan’s enduring gift to this world is her children, who manage, in their own ways, to carry on the values of caring for those in need, enjoying nature, and throwing a good party. When her kids, regardless of their age, sought her advice on questions, both mundane and profound, they’d often receive a reply which, while learned at UBC, felt liberating coming from Joan: ‘Tuum est’ (‘It’s up to you’).

There will be a memorial celebration of Joan’s life on Saturday, July 11, at 5 pm at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Salt Spring Island, BC.

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