Dorothy Durham: nursing, ranching and feminism

Jaffray resident receives BC Community Achievement Award for decades of volunteer service

The Village of Jaffray would not be the same without Dorothy Durham and recently the longtime nurse and tireless community volunteer was honoured with a BC Community Achievement Award.

The 78-year old was recognized in a formal presentation ceremony at Government House in Victoria on April 26 where she was presented with a certificate and a medallion by British Columbia’s Lieutenant-Governor Judith Guichon.

She even got to meet Premier Christy Clark while she was campaigning in Cranbrook.

“What makes British Columbia a great place to call home is the generosity, dedication and commitment of British Columbians,” said Clark in a statement. “Thank you to the 2017 recipients for always going the extra mile for your communities, and your province.”

Durham has gone many extra miles in the service of her community and its residents.

Born in Fernie in 1939, Durham has deep roots in the area. Her nephew Bud Dicken was a prominent local business person, and the local elementary school is named after her aunt Isabella Dicken.

“When I was growing up in Fernie, I could walk up and down the streets and tell you who lived in every house,” she said. “We were really more isolated as a community than it is now where there’s tourists and ski people.”

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Durham became a nurse and began working at the local hospital.

In 1967 she married a rancher and moved to Jaffray where she left an indelible mark on that community. She volunteered for the local 4-H Club, the Sand Creek Seniors, Rural Crime Watch and the Jaffray Community Club.

She’s helped organize events such as Jaffray’s Annual Fall Fair, community dinners and the annual Christmas party.

A sports enthusiast, she has organized numerous curling bonspiels and has served on the executive of the ladies golf club and was instrumental in founding the local Lady Lions Club and a woman’s curling club.

“I said let’s get the wives together and let’s have our Lady Lions Club and of course I’m still in that group,” she said. “We do the lunches for funerals and take some of the pressure off the families in this area and that’s a big thing.”

“I guess I’m a feminist,” she added.

After settling in Jaffray and starting a family, Durham threw herself into the ranching lifestyle, herding cattle, piling bales of hay and installing irrigation pipes. She became involved in the Waldo Stock BreedersLivestock Association and remains their secretary to this day.

She describes her ranching days as some of the happiest times of her life.

“One of the most rewarding things in my life has been working with the ranching community,” she said. “What a fine bunch of people they are.”

While ranching and raising her children, Durham took an hiatus for approximately 14 years from nursing before taking a refresher course and rejoining her former profession for another decade.

In the past few years, she stepped back from some of her volunteer commitments because she “can’t keep up with it all,” but she still keeps up a schedule that would exhaust a person half her age.

She still runs a little clinic at the Sand Creek SeniorCitizens Drop-in Centre. She still looks after people who are dying at home, changing their dressings or giving shots.

And though she said that she’s “honoured and privileged to have received the award,” one thing she does not seem to excel at is self-aggrandizement.

“It’s hard when somebody asks you to blow your own horn ya know.”

She said she enjoyed meeting Clark in Cranbrook for a photo opportunity and found the premier bubbly and full of energy.

“For somebody my age she seemed to be just about bouncing,” she said.

But she got a special thrill out of meeting Guichon, whose family has been ranching in B.C.’s Nicola Valley for well over 100 years, saying she found her “a lovely lady and very down to earth.”

An independent committee selects the recipients of the British Columbia Community Achievement Awards. The 2017 selection committee members were Mayor Jack Froese of the Township of Langley, Mayor Carol Leclerc of the City of Terrace and past recipients, Sue Bauman of Vancouver, Ragwah Gopal of Kelowna and David Young of Vancouver.

The British Columbia Achievement Foundation is an independent foundation established and endowed by the Province of B.C. to celebrate excellence in the arts, humanities, enterprise and community service.

Launched in 2003, the BC Community Achievement Awards were the first initiative of the foundation, followed by the BC Creative Achievement Award for Applied Art and Design, BC’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, the BC Creative Achievement Award for First Nations Art, and the BC Aboriginal Business Awards.