Playing in the band is just one of the many activities Dawn Quast has pursued since arriving in Prince Rupert.

Heart of our City: A bit of this, a bit of that for Dawn Quast

For Prince Rupert’s Dawn Quast, the most exciting and self-rewarding part of life started after retirement.

For Prince Rupert’s Dawn Quast, the most exciting and self-rewarding part of life started after retirement.

Dawn Eby was born in Victoria, moving to Prince Rupert 25 years ago to fill the principal’s chair in an elementary school. But she wasn’t exactly new to the community.

Dawn’s father was raised in Prince Rupert, with the family making a trip to the community back in 1958 to visit family.

While earning her Bachelor of Education from the University of Victoria, Dawn spent two years in Prince Rupert completing student teaching requirements, and working summer jobs in the community.

“I ended up staying both summers … I fell in love with the town,” she said.

After receiving her master of education in educational administration, Dawn went on to become vice-principal in a New Westminster school.

“I had been a vice-principal for 11 years, and at that time there was a glass ceiling [for females in administration],” Dawn explained.

“I wanted to be a principal, and there was an opportunity to come here. I felt really fortunate to get the job, even though everybody thought I was out of my mind because I had a job in the Lower Mainland.”

Dawn moved to Prince Rupert in July of 1989, after being hired as principal of Kanata Elementary.

Six years after dropping anchor on the North Coast, Dawn married lifelong Rupertite, Lloyd Quast.

Around the same time Dawn was moved from Kanata to Conrad Elementary where she would serve as principal for another six years. For the final year of her career, Dawn worked as principal of Port Edward’s school.

For nearly as long as she’s lived in Prince Rupert, Dawn has been involved with the cultural concerts program, an alliance of school districts working to provide performances from quality artists in northern schools.

With the help of Dawn, Prince Rupert students have been able to take in three or four concerts per school year from a variety of artists with different cultural influences.

“Unlike the Lower Mainland, parents (in the north) don’t always have the option of taking their kids to see performances,” Dawn said, adding exposure and experiencing the arts is essential for young learners.

This is why Dawn has been on ArtStarts in school board of directors for the last six years, a non-profit organization that promotes arts and creativity to young British Columbians.

Dawn’s contributions to the quality of life of young people stretches beyond the arts. She has also given countless hours of her time to Prince Rupert’s Girl Guides of Canada program, an organization she first became involved with down south.

“I was in Girl Guides as a girl. I was a Brownie and a Guide and loved it. I wanted to be able to share those experiences with girls,” she said.

After being a group leader for some time, Dawn made the switch into administration work for Girl Guides a number of years ago, entering data for the entire top half of the province.

And while her volunteer contributions have only grown since her retirement in 2003, Dawn has also managed to do more for herself since she passed the milestone. The extra time allowed Dawn to relearn playing an instrument, which quickly became her favourite pastime.

“It’s my priority; I try to not let anything get in the way of it. It something I do for me,” she said, noting when she picked up the dusty oboe from her high school band days, she had been on a 35-year hiatus.

“Sometimes it felt like I never left. But it was hard, for sure,” she said.

Dawn joined the Prince Rupert Community Band after it was reinitiated and continues to play the oboe and English horn in the group today.

After gaining enough confidence, Dawn decided to expand on her abilities.

“I wanted to play in the Muskeg Swing Band, and you don’t play oboes in swing bands, so I took up the saxophone,” she said.

“I’m not a fabulous player, I just love to play,” she said.

Dawn also took up swimming after her career’s end.

“After retirement there was finally time to look after myself. I started going to the pool and swimming laps,” she said, adding she spends as many as five mornings per week in the pool.

“You’ve gotta have a shower anyway, you may as well do it down there,” she laughed.

Dawn also became an active member of the Prince Rupert Seniors Centre in her post-working life, giving computer lessons to seniors when the centre’s computer lab opened.

Her involvement with the centre motivated Dawn to participate in the B.C. Seniors Games, as she knew many members who attended the event each year.

The 2014 games was the fifth year Dawn competed against senior athletes from around the province, coming back from Langley with three medals.

“It’s on my bucket list to get a gold … I have a couple silvers and a bunch of bronze medals over the years. I’ll keep going until I get a gold,” she said.

One of Dawn’s longest-spanning hobbies is what she cherishes most; compiling her family’s ancestry. She has gathered info on the Eby-family tree for more than two decades, having a massive collection of data.

“I have about 80,000 people in my genealogy database,” she said.

“It’s really interesting to make the connections.”

Her enthusiasm for genealogy made Dawn a perfect fit for the Prince Rupert Cemetery Advisory Committee, which makes improvements to Fairview Cemetery and aims to get more residents to visit the site. Dawn has been a member since 2002, and is currently the committee’s secretary, a role she also holds on the Prince Rupert  Region Music Society and the North West B.C. Senior Games Society.

“If I don’t write this stuff down, I forget it. So I might as well be the secretary,” Dawn joked.

Furthermore, Dawn recently joined the newly-formed Prince Rupert Recreation Commission.

In the last year, Dawn has made it a priority to spend more quality time with Lloyd. The couple have made the most of this time, spending a lot of the past 11 months travelling. While the Quast’s have done their fair share of exploring in their lives, they have vacationed in the Dominican Republic, China, Alaska and the Lower Mainland since January.

The next destination is the country of Belize, which the couple is planning to go to this January.

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