Do what your passionate about, and for Judy Riddell, 58, program manager at The Berry Patch childcare resource and referral centre, nurturing seems to be a common theme.
“It’s all about the children and helping them realize their fullest potential,” she said.
But children are not Riddell’s only passion.
“My life has not been straightforward, I’ve done many different things,” she said.
Born in Victoria B.C., Riddell travelled frequently as a child since her father was a mining engineer.
They moved to places such as Saskatchewan, Peru and California all before Grade 11, when she moved back to B.C. alone to attend boarding school.
Although she loved travelling, her first true passion was aquaculture, so Riddell went to McGill University and majored in marine biology.
For the next few years she worked as a biological technician at UBC prior to becoming a port sampler off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Feeling restless, she decided to travel again for a year-and-a-half and ended up working in Japan and Australia.
“I don’t know all the languages but I did have a good phrase book,” she joked, adding her passion for marine biology is what brought her back to B.C., only this time to be a port sampler in Prince Rupert.
She worked for the Salmon Head Recovery program, which still exists today.
She tagged salmon nose cartilages so future biologists could learn how the fish are surviving for many years to come.
“We tagged with a numbered pin so you can tell what hatchery it came from and what year,” she said.
Her passion still in aquaculture, she went back to school in Nanaimo for one year before returning to Prince Rupert and working at the former fish farm on Miller Bay, formally known as the Fisherman’s Co-op. “It was a grassroots type of thing where the workers own the business,” she said.
It was there she farm-raised salmon, met her husband and had three daughters. And it was there her passion would change in the direction of becoming a stay-at-home mom.
One day she spotted in the newspaper that the provincial government was funding out-of-school centres.
She said she thought to herself, “We don’t have any here in Prince Rupert.”
So, Riddell did what she needed to and opened up a daycare across the street from the former Westview Elementary.
“It was the first in Prince Rupert where parents would bring their kids as early as 7 a.m. and staff would take them to school. In the afternoon, someone would meet them in the playground and bring them back until their parents picked them up,” she said.
Another year went by and Riddell saw another government funding opportunity only this time for a child care resource and referral centre.
“So I wrote the proposal for that one too, we won the bid and set up The Berry Patch Child Resource and Referral Centre in 2002 where I have been ever since,” she said.
Two out of her three original co-workers, Connie Collins and Betty Ciccone, moved with her and also work at The Berry Patch.
Thinking back now, many of her courses in school apply directly to childcare.
“I did child psychology and microbiology. It’s still about rearing, husbandry and nurturing. Now it’s children not fish,” Riddell said with a smile.
Riddell has another passion, supporting people at the end of their life as president of the Prince Rupert Hospice Society.
“We are there for emotional and social support for both persons at end-of-life and their families,” she said.
Ironically, she spent years following salmon through their full life cycle — one of few fish who die after spawning.
“We try to normalize people thinking about life and how life unfolds. Our slogan is: Death is a part of life,” she said.
Currently, the Hospice Society is promoting a medical plan initiative called 75/20, also known as My Voice throughout B.C.
“We would like 75 per cent of Prince Rupert and area to complete the End of Life (medical plan booklet) by 2020,” she said.
So now, not only does she support the nurturing of young minds, but helping those at the other end of the spectrum.
“It’s just my way of looking at things.”