“I don’t think that’s right – what do you think?”
Veteran Peace Arch News staffers can still almost hear the Australian lilt of Ruth Kooyman’s voice as she stood her ground, pointing to the proof in her hand, querying a fact, spelling or grammatical point in editorial or advertising copy.
For many years, the feisty, redoubtable Kooyman – part of the original Peace Arch News family put together by founder-publisher Roy Jelly in the 1970s – was a combined production worker, eagle-eyed proofreader and conscience for the paper; a caring crusader for quality in spite of rushed deadlines, harried reporters and the occasional unreasonable demand of an advertiser.
Sadly, Kooyman succumbed to cancer this week, after a long battle. She was 82 when she passed away on Sunday (Nov. 11) at Peace Arch Hospital.
For those who were at the paper at the beginning – or even a decade later – it’s hard to accept that Kooyman is gone. Even after she retired, in 2001, she would still ‘pop by’ once in a while, to see how everyone was doing, to share a story or shake her head at some perceived lunacy in the community.
Others on the Peninsula know her from a splendid record of long hours as volunteer for Peace Arch Hospital Auxiliary and other organizations; the many gifts she made to be sold to support the White Rock Hospice Society.
“I think of her dedication with the Peace Arch News, since 1976 – she helped establish the newspaper,” said creative services manager Jim Chmelyk, who remembered Kooyman’s principal responsibility for classified ads, which she used to set by hand and collate personally.
“I always thought, in the back of my head, she was watching and demanding the best of her co-workers.”
“She knew the name of everyone in White Rock and how to spell it, and every street – and whether it was a street, a road or an avenue,” recalled fellow creative services veteran Eileen Jarrett.
“She was a real character, but her grasp of English was perfect.”
Former co-worker Leslie Hilts remembered Kooyman’s pride in family and her home, and her enthusiasm for gardening, as well as her reputation as a stickler for accuracy.
“She did, absolutely, care. We used to joke about it, but that was a big part of her life.”
Hilts also remembered how Kooyman’s diverse background had contributed to a memorable personality.
Born in Perth, Western Australia, on Jan. 17, 1930, Kooyman (nee Hedemann) had already travelled extensively before settling in B.C. in 1958.
She was originally a legal secretary for a Vancouver firm, but after she married her husband Harmen in 1968 they moved to Ocean Park, where they raised their son, Daniel.
She is survived by her husband and son, a daughter-in-law, grandson, and two sisters in Australia.
A celebration of her life will be held Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at Sunnyside United Church. Donations to the Canadian Cancer Society are suggested in lieu of flowers.