Your reporting on the regrettable loss to Prince George of Valerie Giles was much appreciated by people like me who are friends of hers now grieving. Otherwise, we would not easily have learned that, as we feel deeply, in her passing early last month. Prince George (and we) lost a rare, and very special, person. So I am writing you now to pay a sentimental tribute to that unique individual I am glad to call my friend.
Dating back to the late 1960s, the Valerie I knew, beginning at UBC – and notwithstanding her academic and other achievements along the way, together with significant career projects as a professional communicator - first and foremost was a warm, caring and supportive friend to many. Throughout a lifetime of unique experience she befriended, and in numerous instances kept in frequent contact with, a large and diverse cross-section of people across Canada, as well as abroad. Her collection of friends and admirers, latterly including former prime minister John Turner in retirement, began in earnest when, as a young adult residing in Metro Vancouver, she embraced her parents’ demonstrable interest in party politics – especially focused on the Liberal Party both provincially and federally. The resulting allegiance to public affairs kept Valerie active in, and alert about, the political world, not least including engagement about the advancement of women.
For at least two decades before her career path veered north to Prince George (attracted by what she found to be an exciting assignment as a key staffer supporting the founding president of UNBC), prior to concentrating on graduate studies that eventually led to a doctorate she honed her skills as a communicator in a variety of business and other contexts. This included a valued Ottawa stint inside the office of none other than the Prime Minister of Canada. And it also involved her venturing as far away as Hong Kong for an eye-opening job in educational administration there.
Her background here in Canada and internationally distant from her origins in North Delta before Prince George surely shaped the far from ordinary personality of the Valerie that those who met and worked with her in your city since the early 1990s encountered. Like many others near and far, they undoubtedly found appealing her unapologetic quirks and fervent opinions. Yet the politics, the broadening travel and accumulation of enviable career experience which reinforced her strong character at the same time did not dilute her essence.
At her core Valerie was quite at ease being a very B.C. gal, a fundamentally decent soul very much grounded here. Indeed, she was a proud British Columbian who in mind and heart did not stray far from the comfort of her roots. That comfort meant endearing loyalty she always showed particularly to those locally hereabouts who were privileged to have shared some of her foundational years. In addition, this homage to Valerie Giles referring to what made her comfortable would not be complete without paying attention to her incomparable dedication to the animal world. My most memorable image of her, to which anyone who knew her at home would attest the accuracy, forever will remain that of an indomitable spirit who welcomed the adoption of handfuls of mutts and felines who, of course, commanded her enduring affection and attention domestically. Furthermore, conscious of the current perilous global threat to honeybees, over the last few years she even became a beekeeper.
Valerie Giles made both a noticeable and a notable difference to many. She is missed and will be remembered fondly.
J. Gerard (Gerry) Lenoski