Give back and do what you can.
It’s a mantra that keeps Williams Lake senior Diane Walters busy.
“I’m a firm believer in giving back,” she said. “If the community has been good to you, it’s only right to give back.”
She traces her desire to volunteer back to the influence of her nana Violet Duckworth.
When Walters was a child she and her mother, Helen Peacock, lived with Duckworth in Langley, B.C.
During the war, every day at lunch time, CBC radio used to broadcast the names of the people who were killed or missing in action, Walters recalled.
“If it was someone from in and around the Langley area, Nanny would phone her friend Mrs. Gibson. Mrs. Gibson would bring her car and we would go to that family,” Walters recalled. “I think it was their way of reaching out a hand of understanding. They went as a form of comfort and compassion and that most likely left a bigger mark on me than anything that ever happened in my life. My nanny was wonderful.”
Today Walters volunteers as a director on the Women’s Contact Society and prepares income tax returns for the society’s clients.
This summer she has been volunteering at the Williams Lake Emergency Social Services (ESS) centre since it opened because of the wildfires.
“There was one day at the ESS where the lineup was all the way out to the sidewalk,” Walters said. “We put through 5,700 people that day. It was remarkable.”
Five years ago on the May long weekend Walters lost her husband, Ron, to a heart attack.
He died in her arms.
They were married for 40 years and owned and operated San Jose Logging Ltd.
“He was my best friend,” Walters said. “We had such a great time so when he died my life had a big void.”
During the 1990s, Walters was part of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Land Use Plan round table and was the spokesperson for all the independent contractors.
“It goes to show you this group was not so redneck,” she said smiling. “They didn’t mind having a woman spokesperson.”
The round table, she added, had representatives from tourism, recreation, environmental conservationists, berry pickers, mining — hard rock and placer — agriculture, youth, First Nations, manufacturers, local government, provincial government, a “mixed bag” of businesses and a group that called themselves “all-beings.”
“It was a wonderful experience. When the table collapsed at the end of the two years every person there thanked me and said they were glad to have met me,” Walters said. “The plan wasn’t perfect, but it was the only one that was legislated.”
Walters was born in 1940 and attended a different school almost every year because her father, Colin Peacock, was in construction.
With the province opening up he went whereever there was work, even to Jasper for six months.
The summer she turned 10, they were living in Savona and she received a horse for her birthday that Colin won in a poker game.
“I loved Blaze,” she said of her horse. “I slept in a pup tent and tied a rope to my ankle and Blaze’s ankle because we didn’t have any fences.”
Her family also spent several seasons managing fishing and hunting lodges where she learned how to repair boat engines, catch, gut and smoke fish.
“Dad always wanted me to be a guide, but I wasn’t into hunting,” she said.
Walters was married to an American soldier and lived at the naval base in Jacksonville, Florida during the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, she saw and heard Martin Luther King Jr., saw demonstrations, went into labour with her son Shawn the day JFK was shot and lived through a hurricane.
Eventually she realized she did not want to live in a country where the president got shot and killed so she returned as a single parent to Canada.
She moved to Williams Lake in 1968.
“My mom was living here and encouraged me to come here,” she said. “There were lots of jobs for women.”
The Friday before Ron died, Walters had become a marriage commissioner and keeps busy, especially in the summer doing weddings, although this summer because of the wildfires six weddings were cancelled or postponed.
“I also sing with the Just for Fun group and then I marry people and try to keep my life busy,” she smiled.