Faith, Grace and Joie de Vivre

Some of the women included in Boom & Bust: The Resilient Women of Historic Telegraph Cove are on facebook, instagram, twitter, among other social media. Most of them have email addresses. Some can text on their smart phones. But a few are a little more off-grid, and not the oldest ones either!

The most off-grid gal in the book is reachable by telephone, sometimes. Or there is always snail mail to to an address that includes RR1; that is, very rural. Since my last visit to her island home to hand her a copy of the book…

me and Faith, June 2019

…I have been sending cards and notes. Christmas cards absolutely. I never get a response, but then don’t expect one. Who sends Christmas cards anymore (except me)?

So when I received a card from her this week, I was surprised. Too late for Christmas. Too late for Valentine’s Day or even Groundhog Day. As soon as I opened the envelope though, and saw her name on the front of the card, my heart sank.

Faith D’Arcy died, on January 15, 2022, a little too soon in my opinion.

I did not know she had cancer – she must have contracted it shortly after I saw her last. It must have been fairly quick moving. The unsigned card indicated that she was to move into palliative care in Victoria, but instead had chosen to stay right where she was, at home, on Mayne Island, with her husband present and within sight of the sea.

Well, that was Faith.

Strong, smart, stubborn. Right to the end it seems.

The eldest of three children, preWWII, Faith did not know about her father’s temper until after he came home from the war, when the abuse also returned from the war, probably heightened by it. Fearing for her children as well as herself, Grace D’Arcy reached out to the Wastell family when they were spending time in their Victoria house only a couple of blocks away, and asked for ideas.

Grace D’Arcy and her children, with Faith on the right

Faith remembers that first day she, her mother and brothers arrived in Telegraph Cove, simply flying off the Union Steamship to greet their new home in this magical place. Although they lived there for only 5 years, for the rest of her life Telegraph Cove was Faith’s happy place. Grace taught in the one-roomed school, and the three children attended school by day, worked in the house by evening, and explored every nook and cranny of the Cove with their new playmates by weekend.

arriving on the Cardena, 1947

Those were key years in her life, maybe the most formative, aging from 9 to 14. It was post-war, the mill was back in the Wastells’ hands after years of RCAF operations, and the school contained the most children seen within its walls in its entire history.

When Faith had aged out of the school, and the D’Arcy family moved down Island, Grace expanded her career to impressive heights, and Faith resigned herself to a future away from Telegraph Cove.

She put it to good use. Travelling through Europe on a shoestring in the early 1960s, nursing in London (one of her colleagues asked “Do you like the Beatles?” to which Faith, who thought she asked “Do you like beetles?” replied “Ew, no I do not!”), returning to Canada where she specialized in rehabilitation for ostomies patients, and becoming the first Enterostomal Therapist nurse at both Jubilee and Victoria General Hospitals, until her retirement in 1999.

Life sent her in a nice little circle at one point, when Fred Wastell was admitted to the cancer ward in the Victoria hospital, near Faith’s office, in the early 1980s and she fiercely advocated for his care to the grateful thanks of Fred’s two daughters who lived in Vancouver.

There is something particularly unfair about a person who spent her career in healthcare getting sick with cancer before her time. Always lively, always positive, always welcoming, always enthusiastic, always generous, always happy and always amused by life, Faith’s laugh has now been silenced. If her spirit is able to go anywhere on earth, I just know it will be stomping, right about now, along the boardwalk in Telegraph Cove.