In 1942, when Jean Roe spent nine months convalescing from a badly broken leg – result of a New Year’s Day skiing party she’d helped organize for some Canadian Forces personnel on leave – she made a solemn vow.
“I’d broken my right leg in five places – I went through hell and I was only 19 at that time,” she recalled.
“I said to myself, ‘if I can ever get back on my feet again, I’d spend my life helping others.’”
And that’s just what the former newspaperwoman, a native of Botwood, N.L., and a Peninsula resident for the last 25 years, has done.
Latest recognition of her outstanding record of volunteerism – for which she received the Order of Canada in 1982 – came April 11 when she received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in a ceremony at HMCS Discovery in Vancouver.
Roe was among 87 distinguished Canadians from B.C., who were presented with the honour by Lt. Governor Steven Point.
“I’m very proud of that,” Roe said of the new medal.
“Most of the people who received it (at that ceremony) had received the Order of Canada before.”
Roe, who previously also received the Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal, said she is particularly pleased that the honours she has received recognized her volunteerism.
“Most of the people who get the order of Canada are established in literature and the arts,” she said, adding that there are too many unsung volunteers who make a difference for them all to be recognized with an award or medal.
“If the world didn’t turn out the number of volunteers it does, it wouldn’t be the place it is now,” she said.
Her journalistic career, which began with the Western Star in Cornerbrook, N.L., also included stints at the Regina Leader-Post and the Moose Jaw Times Herald in Saskatchewan.
A resident of Moose Jaw for 26 years with her late husband, the noted newspaper editor James Browning Roe, she eventually served the city for 10 years as a council member and was named Citizen of the Year in 1977.
The ever-active Roe, who continues to volunteer her time and talents to many charitable organizations, including the Arthritis Society, the Canadian Cancer Society and UNICEF, also keeps busy knitting warm garments for children across the province, and women and children throughout the developing world, through the Victoria-based organization Canada Comforts.
She also volunteers for the Alexandra Neighbourhood House in Crescent Beach, and has long demonstrated her pride in Canada by organizing Canada Day celebrations in every community in which she lives.
And her early injury didn’t put a crimp in her physical exercise regimen, either.
In 2008 and 2009 Roe also made headlines – including one in the Western Star –when the Crescent Walkers, the seniors walking group she has led for 14 years, walked the equivalent of a cross-Canada trip (some 7,000 km) on the trails of Southern B.C. as a way to promote the B.C. Winter Olympics.