News

Longtime White Rock councillor remembered

UPDATE: A memorial service for Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson is to take place on Wednesday, July 11, from 2-4 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russell Ave.

Anyone with photos of Anderson that they would like shared with attendees is asked to bring them to Wendy Cantin at the mayor's office (15322 Buena Vista Ave.) as soon as possible. They may also be emailed to TArthur@whiterockcity.ca, with 'Coun. Anderson' in the subject line.

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The City of White Rock is in mourning this week, following news of the passing of longtime Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson.

The senior politician died at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, four weeks after being admitted to Peace Arch Hospital with complications from a heart procedure. She was 84.

“I kept saying… you have to hang on, you have to hang on,” friend Marilyn Rice said Wednesday, recalling conversations she’d had with Anderson in recent days. “But it just wasn’t going to work.”

Told by doctors that her heart was failing, Anderson had been anxiously waiting to visit with the long-lost daughter who she had reunited with briefly in April after 50 years apart. She believed a complication that was delaying Ginny Awakuni from obtaining a U.S. passport was about to clear.

But it didn’t happen in time.

After news Wednesday morning that her passport application has been denied, Awakuni told Peace Arch News from Texas that it is “very unlikely” she’ll get the chance to bid a proper farewell to her mother.

Awakuni’s son, Michael Montgomery – Anderson’s grandson – was due to fly in to Bellingham Airport Wednesday afternoon and make his way to White Rock, a trip that had been planned following the knowledge that Anderson’s time was short.

As uncertainty hangs over when a memorial will be held, the City of White Rock is planning to pay tribute to Anderson at the start of the July 9 council meeting.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin confirmed a byelection will be held to fill her seat, and expects it will take place in the fall.

Anderson will no doubt be remembered for the feisty – yet proper – presence she added to council since 2000.

Anderson had called White Rock home since 1983, but became an increasingly familiar – and popular – face after joining the city’s political scene.

Given to making grand pronouncements in the precise diction of her English homeland, the former nurse, real-estate agent and businesswoman was never one to shy from expressing her opinion in the years that followed.

Amidst the controversy around building heights in White Rock, she held fast in her support of Bosa Properties’ four-tower Miramar Village project. More recently, she left no doubt she was fed up with having to constantly revisit the Marine Drive pay-parking issue.

Baldwin – who was city manager when Anderson was first elected – said her propensity for one-liners livened many a meeting.

"She had some great zingers," Baldwin said.

He recalled one "particularly raucous" public hearing, when Anderson was booed by some in the audience.

"I may be an old hen, but I can still peck," Anderson shot back, he said.

Baldwin also recalled Anderson's passion for the Peace Arch Hospital, and her efforts in the campaign to see the facility's fifth and sixth floors completed.

When she ended up a patient herself on the sixth floor of the hospital, she lined the windowsill of her room with photos of her family.

As a councillor, Anderson was passionate about regional issues and often raved about being involved with Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee. She regarded having the opportunity to contribute to both as an honour.

She was also an unfailing fan of the Vancouver Canucks and pro golfer Tiger Woods – in fact, she saw Woods' March win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill as a sign of good things to come in her own life.

"I said, 'now I know I'm going to get better'," she told Peace Arch News. "He's been my inspiration."

Anderson had quietly struggled with health issues over the past few years, often attending Peace Arch Hospital's emergency ward to correct an irregular heartbeat, before beginning the process about 2½ years ago that lead to a heart procedure she described as "better than magic."

On March 6, doctors in Vancouver slid a piece of cow artery into place through the femoral artery in her groin, replacing a faulty valve.

"Through the artery, to the heart to smack, and all of a sudden your heart is beating away. It's incredible," she told PAN.

Less than two months later, she travelled to Blaine to reunite with Awakuni and the son she had also not seen for 50 years.

The year leading up to the heart procedure was a tough one health-wise. But throughout, Anderson was determined not to let the community down, or give up on the city business she so loved.

"She was so good for the community," Rice said. "She loved White Rock and that was all there was to it."

When PAN last spoke with Anderson on June 12, she was set on getting back to council and on with life as soon as physically possible.

As word of her death spread Wednesday, tributes to the popular lady who sat three seats right of the mayor during council began to pour in.

"I will miss her greatly," writes Coun. Helen Fathers, who has flanked Anderson in council chambers for the past 3½ years, writes on Twitter. "God bless her."

"We will all miss her," writes Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele.

Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg described the news as "a surprise and painful."

He described Anderson as a wonderful hostess and lifelong student – especially on the history of Winston Churchill and the monarchy.

Former mayor Judy Forster said she had never worked with anyone as dedicated to serving her constituents as Anderson.

"She will be missed," Forster said.

Rice said Anderson will be a tough act to follow.

"Who could even try to fill her shoes?" she said.

Anderson is survived by four children, as well as an unconfirmed number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

- with files from Dan Ferguson & Alex Browne

 

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