We are deeply saddened to share the news that our fierce, beautiful and beloved mother (and Gaga) Thelma Johnstone died on May 12, 2019. In keeping with Thelma’s renowned sense of occasion, she passed away on Mother’s Day when, after almost 85 years, her extraordinary strength at last gave way.
She will be missed always and every day by her children Jeffrey (Terry), Jennifer (LaVance) and Victoria and her adored grandson Tor.
Thelma is predeceased by her sisters Elinor and Bernice and her beloved niece Susan, and survived by her nephews Rob, Pat, David and their families, her brother Jack (Jennifer) and their children Brandon, Jason, Verona & Ashley.
Thelma was born in Rossland BC in 1934 and was always proud of her “West Kootenay” roots and her remarkable school career which foreshadowed her life of community service and accomplishment.
In Grade 12 Thelma was Student Council President, Class Valedictorian and won prizes in Math, English, Latin and Science at her school as well as a Canadian Public Speaking Contest and a national Math prize.
She then attended UBC on scholarship, supplemented by her many part-jobs on campus, earning her Bachelor of Arts in Honours Sociology and was accepted by Columbia University, NY for post-graduate work. After graduation, Thelma had a brief, but accomplished career in advertising as a Media Director for local and national firms. In 1962 she followed her entrepreneurial spirit and incorporated Tanna Management Inc. – a company that she successfully ran for the next 25 years.
In 1957 Thelma got married and over the next six years had three children. Jeffrey was born in the back of a Studebaker at 10th & Alma in Vancouver; Jennifer and Victoria under more traditional circumstances at Vancouver General Hospital. But working full time while raising her three children was not yet enough for Thelma, she also needed to find ways to give back.
In 1964 Thelma was elected to the Richmond School Board and served as their Chairperson. In 1968 she was appointed as Richmond’s representative to the founding council of Douglas College and served in that capacity until the College was opened, as well as serving as a volunteer for numerous local causes. In 1968 she was a proud delegate to the Liberal Leadership Convention that elected Pierre Trudeau as leader and, in 1969, ran for MLA in the riding of Richmond. While she was not elected, she was always proud of the fact that she increased the Liberal vote by a larger percentage than any other riding in the Province.
Throughout her lifetime, Thelma blazed a path for women in work and public service and passionately supported the struggle for women’s equality.
In 1984 Thelma moved permanently to Whistler, BC, having spent weekends and holidays there since 1974. Once settled into her new role as Executive Director of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, she set about getting elected first to the Howe Sound School Board, where she was re-elected twice and, in 1988, was elected to the Resort Municipality of Whistler as Alderman and re-elected 3 times as Councillor. In that same year, Thelma was named Whistler’s Citizen of the Year. She was appointed by the RMOW as Whistler’s representative to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Board and chaired that organization in 1995/96. In 1995, she was nominated for a Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Award.
Thelma retired from her position with the Whistler Chamber in 2001, returning to the Lower Mainland where it was not necessary to shovel the snow off her car in order to start her days and to be closer to her daughters. She continued to serve her new community of White Rock on the Board of the Semiahmoo Arts Council and the City Spirit Stakeholders Committee.
In the later years of her life, Thelma realized a few of her lifelong dreams – travelling to Europe, studying French and working on her family’s genealogy – expanding her family tree to include 686 relatives and six generations of Canadians. And, since 2007, she spent as much time as she could with her grandson Tor.
In 2009 Thelma moved to Concord Retirement Community where she was supported with love and care for the next 10 years. We are tremendously grateful to Holly and all the staff at Concord.
Thelma did not want any kind of celebration event at the end of her life but if you would like to remember her by making a donation in her name to the Women of Whistler (WOW) Scholarship Fund at the Community Foundation of Whistler, we know she would be honoured.
You are invited to leave a personal message of condolence for the family.
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Thelma Marie Pitt Johnstone May 12th 2019..
Death notice for the town of: Aldergrove, Province: Colombie britanique