Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Goodbye Bea

Family and friends of Bea Dezell filled the Knox United Church on Saturday afternoon to say goodbye to the 105-year-old city matriarch.
Cliff Dezell shares a story about his mother Bea Dezell during her funeral service at the Knox United Church Saturday.

Family and friends of Bea Dezell filled the Knox United Church on Saturday afternoon to say goodbye to the 105-year-old city matriarch.

At the service people described a woman who was active, involved, engaged in the world and optimistic until her death on March 6. Dezell was laid to rest in a private family service Saturday morning.

"She thought today was the best time to be alive, but she probably thought that about every time she lived in," her son, former city councillor Cliff Dezell, said. "She was full of grace, courage and optimism. We're going to miss her very much."

Dezell was born in North Vancouver on July 7, 1908 and moved to Prince George with her husband Garvin and two children -Cliff and Noreen -in 1946 after spending the Great Depression years in Williams Lake.

Garvin Dezell was mayor of the city from 1950 to 1953, and again from 1960 to '69 -during the period when three new pulp mills caused the city's population to grow from 4,000 to 30,000 people.

The family also owned a construction contracting company, which Dezell played a key part in running, Cliff said.

While Dezell had traditional ideas about the roles of men and women "she just didn't think they applied to her," he added.

"If she wanted to do something, she did. Whether it was running the financial side of a construction business or snorkeling in her 80s," he said.

She was active in the Girl Guides movement, a member of the Royal Purple for 65 years, and, as her vision started to go in her later years, the White Cane Club and Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Dezell was an leader and advocate for adaptive technology for the blind and vision impaired, he said.

"[And] she learned to use them at an age when many people are just sitting in their rocking chairs doing nothing," Cliff said.

Bea's Tree - a Christmas tree Dezell bought in 1953 for Brownie Christmas parties - has become an annual part of the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation's Festival of Trees. Since 2004, auctions for the tree have raised more than $125,000.

She was a people person with a knack for making and keeping friends

Daughter Noreen Rustad said while Dezell was upbeat and optimistic, she was also exceptionally smart and had a mind of her own.

"Even though the public saw my dad the mayor and construction boss as gruff and tough, she always found a way to get her way," she said. "She was the glue that held our family together. She taught us many practical things... but more importantly to continue to strive to achieve our goals."

She was an avid gardener and highly-competitive -always looking to one-up Rustad's husband's garden.

"She did keep us all busy with her projects, but her projects, more often than not, were to benefit someone else," Rustad said. "Our family had the benefit of her for a very long time. We know she'll be watching over us and protecting us, as she always did."

Granddaughter Vicki Roth said Dezell loved to spend time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"From a child's point of view, grandma Bea was the ideal grandma," Roth said. "She was always optimistic and she always had faith in our abilities. [And] at grandma's, there was always room for one more friend."

Roth said she believes Dezell continued to stay active and keep up to date with technology because she was full of curiosity about the world.

"Her basic world view was that the world is full of interesting people and places, and she didn't want to miss out on it," Roth said. "She was the centre of our family, and we're all going to miss her very much."

Reverend Rob Smith, who officiated the ceremony, said even at the end as she was in hospice Dezell still was interested in the world.

"In the end Bea was tired and ready to go. But she never lost her sense of wonder," he said. "Sometimes as we get old, our world gets smaller and smaller. Our partners die, our friends pass on and our families move away and lose touch. But even as Bea got older, her world never shrunk. She was a strong woman and determined to make a difference in her world."