Remembering an Ocean Park pioneer
The last surviving daughter of one of Surrey’s pioneering families passed away June 28 at the age of 91.
Georgina Stuart Strachan was the youngest daughter of Ben and Emelia Stevenson (daughter of Isaac Johnston, an early settler on what is now Johnston Road) who settled the land in Ocean Park in 1886.
The longtime Peninsula resident is remembered by her five children, 12 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren as a caring and generous matriarch who always had room for one more around the dinner table.
“Growing up, our refrigerator belonged to everyone on the block,” laughed son, Ralph White. “If she found out anyone was without, she would invite them. There was always enough to go around.”
Strachan was born in New Westminster in 1922, the youngest of eight children. Prior to living in New Westminster, and later in Vancouver, the Stevenson family lived in Ocean Park, where Strachan’s father, Ben, had purchased a huge parcel of land bordered by the waterfront and Stevenson Road (128 Street), from and North Bluff Road (16 Avenue) to Sunnyside Road (24 Avenue).
In 1918, Stevenson, who also had connections to the history of the nearby Elgin and Mud Bay communities, donated land for the first school in Ocean Park and was instrumental in securing tunnel access to the beach, under the Great Northern tracks, according to the City of Surrey website.
Following the family’s move to Vancouver in order to be closer to schooling for the children, Strachan graduated from Prince of Wales High School and married her husband Herbert Emerson White, eventually moving back to Ocean Park in 1966 to live on a plot of land her father had set aside for her. The two were married for more than 40 years, until White passed in 1986.
Soon after, Strachan and her family spearheaded a movement to return a strip of land that remained at the foot of 18 Avenue back to the public. With the rest of Stevenson’s property broken up or sold, the extra parcel of real estate on Ocean Park Road was all that remained, with new homeowners on either side attempting to absorb it.
However, the family pushed for it to remain open as a road allowance, Ralph said.
“We held a huge demonstration. When Surrey got going, (Ben) had designated a certain amount of land as road ends, but people who lived there didn’t want that. They made an application to make that land their own,” he explained.
Following a court ruling in the family’s favour, the land was returned to the city on the condition it remain public. The small road allowance was then renamed as Ben Stevenson View Park, overlooking the waters of Boundary Bay to Point Roberts and the Gulf Islands.
“Mom was very much a part of that. There was no way they were going to take her father’s land for nothing. There are hardly any places like that left,” Ralph said. “We certainly love the area.”
Strachan later married Bill Stewart, who died suddenly in 1988, and then Dr. J. George Strachan, who predeceased her in 1996.
For a number of years, Strachan worked at the Bank of Montreal in White Rock where, White noted, she had numerous friends. The matriarch was an avid gardner and exceptionally proud of her waterfront home in the Ocean Park area, which was sold last year when she was admitted to Dr. Al Hogg Pavilion due to her declining health.
While Georgina was the last of Stevenson’s children, Ralph said portions of his former plot are still in the family.
“I live in Ocean Park on a piece of property that used to be part of my grandfather’s farm,” he said. “This area was subdivided by my mother and two aunts, and I bought one, my cousin bought one and my sister bought one.
“We’re all kind of here, living on his land.”
A memorial service for Strachan will be held July 10 at 1:00 p.m., at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, 12953 20th Avenue. In lieu of flowers donations to The British Columbia Lung Association would be appreciated.