Active community volunteer remembered

Mary Jo Bouillet was a force in the community, helping countless seniors and people with disabilities. She passed away at the age of 85 on May 24. - Contributed photo
Mary Jo Bouillet was a force in the community, helping countless seniors and people with disabilities. She passed away at the age of 85 on May 24.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Mary Josephine (Mary Jo) Bouillet was a woman of indomitable spirit who overcame personal hardships and disabilities to give back to others in the community.

That's how Bouillet, 85, who passed away quietly at Morgan Place on May 24, is remembered by her sons Cliff, Dan and Ray and their families – and many others who worked with and were helped by her through the former White Rock Community Aid Society and the community's precursor to today's HandyDart service.

Dan said that when HandyDart marked its 25th anniversary in the community six years ago, his mother and former Community Aid board member Agnes Carlson were specially honoured for their contributions in the service's formative years.

Many remember Bouillet, who came to White Rock in 1961 and was a longtime resident of an Evergreen Baptist Home apartment, as the helpful voice that scheduled appointments and transportation for many of the area's senior and disabled shut-ins.

They may not have realized the full extent of her own handicaps.

Born in the tiny Kootenays community of Sandon, B.C. and raised in nearby Kaslo, Bouillet was a divorced single mother when, at the age of 28, she suffered a major stroke.

"It paralyzed her down one side and, the technology of that time not being too advanced, she spent a year in the Lower Mainland receiving therapy," Dan said.

When she returned to the Kootenays, she had a fall on her paralyzed side and broke a hip, Dan said. At the same time she was also mourning the loss of her father and mother, and a sister and brother, who had all recently died.

"It was a rough time, but it had a lot to do with the tenacity she developed to deal with life," he said. "She eventually fought her way out of wheelchair and walked with a cane. It took her an hour or more to walk from her apartment on Everall to walk to White Rock Community Aid on Johnston Road, but she was a very, very determined lady.

From a start as part of a provincial Local Initiatives Project grant, White Rock Community Aid evolved from a odd jobs service for seniors and shut-ins to a transportation program, particularly after the Soroptimists Society became a principal sponsor and provided two mini buses.

Bouillet was with it every step of the way, her son said, also becoming involved in such programs as Meals On Wheels.

"She gave all she had and never held back,  and she especially had a heart for the less fortunate," he said.

"She'd enlist lots of volunteers and her family was coerced into helping with many of her activities. She left that legacy for us to carry on. More than just as a person, she's remembered for the difference she made."


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