If you’ve spent any time taking in the beauty of Sunken Gardens, you have Andrée Fawcett to thank.
Andrée has spent countless hours volunteering at the park space over the past decade with the upkeep of Sunken Gardens, and gardening in general, being a passion of hers.
“It’s the only public garden that we have in town,” Andrée said.
“It feels very important for people in the community to use.”
Andrée moved to Prince Rupert in 1982 to be with her partner David, who she became acquainted with while working as a blaster in a mining camp in Kitsault.
Because part of her childhood was spent in Kitimat, Andrée had visited the community before during a family trip when she was a kid.
“Like so many people, I planned to only stay for five years. A few ‘five years’ have gone by,” laughed Andrée.
“But now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Andrée joined the Prince Rupert Garden Club shortly after relocating to the community as a way to become adjusted to the North Coast’s unique terrain. Andrée always had a green thumb, attributing it to her parents. She became deeply involved with the club, even taking on the leadership role a number of years later.
Andrée’s involvement with Sunken Gardens began more than 10 years ago, after the provincial government stopped funding the maintenance of its park space. After it was left unmaintained for a number of years, Andrée and the Garden Club decided to take Sunken Gardens under their wings.
Andrée went to the club’s members and suggested an umbrella group be created to revitalize Sunken Gardens. The project came alive in the early 2000s, with nearly 100 people showing up to help the first time volunteers tackle the area.
“They were people who came with stories of how their grandmother used to bring them here to have a picnic, or they had wedding and grad pictures here. That really inspired us. We started and ripped apart the top level, re-did it totally,” Andrée said.
Validations for all of the effort comes in the form of life milestone photos, such as graduations and weddings, being taken at Sunken Gardens.
“A lot of people are quite fascinated with this garden,” said Andrée.
“Some of the commentary people have made is very gratifying.”
While the umbrella group that looks after Sunken Gardens does receive some funding from the provincial government, all of the work must be done by volunteers. Each year more than 100 flats of plants are put in the garden, which only takes about two days to complete if 40 or 50 people come to help out for just a couple hours.
“We do rely heavily on volunteers and unfortunately in the last couple of years that volunteer base has fallen off and it’s becoming problematic,” said Andrée.
Although she is now retired, Andrée and David ran a bed and breakfast out of their home for many years, opening the business in 1996.
“Everybody always has a romantic idea of what a bed and breakfast will be. It’s a lot of hard work, as it turns out,” laughed Andrée.
“But it was enjoyable. I met a lot of fascinating people from all over the world.”
After starting up the B&B, Andrée decided to join Tourism Prince Rupert and went on to become chair of the organization. Furthermore, Andrée was also a long-standing chair of the Recreation Advisory Committee in the ‘90s.
Andrée is proud to have worked in an array of jobs throughout her lifetime, many of which weren’t considered to be “women’s work”.
“I had non-traditional jobs for women for a long time. A lot of younger women don’t realize that was a struggle for my age group; to be considered equal to the men you’re working beside,” Andrée said.
“With my jobs, I experienced life in all kinds of parts of the country that I wouldn’t have had with [an office job].”
Along with running the B&B and working in a mine, Andrée also worked in the forestry industry, as a bus driver in Prince Rupert and in the nurseries of RONA and Azelea Gardens.
Prior to becoming the project manager of Sunken Gardens, Andrée was actually paid to look after the park while she was working with Azelea. She also helped to build Mariner’s Park while working for the establishment.
Andrée is a proud feminist, attributing it to many of her life’s choices. She is proud to say the woman in her family have followed in her footsteps, with many also taking up jobs that haven’t traditionally been filled by females. Andrée comes from a long line of feminist women, noting her grandmother divided up household chores equally amongst all her children.
Anyone wishing to volunteer to maintain Sunken Gardens is encouraged to contact Andrée at 250-624-3666 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.