Communication is most certainly one of Marion Weir’s strong points.
It’s the reason why she’s taken on the positions of not only the president of the Prince Rupert Seniors’ Centre, but the president of Zone 10 of the BC Seniors Games, as well as having a seat on the boards of Better at Home and the Integration Hospital Board.
The busy Rupertite hadn’t actively sought out each role, but her ability to speak for others when they have a tough time of being heard has enabled her to get along as an ambassador of seniors’ causes in Prince Rupert, often as a natural leader.
“I like people,” she said last week at the Seniors’ Centre, just before a game of cards would break out that morning at the facility.
“I can talk to anybody. My grandkids used to say to me, ‘What’s that person’s name, Grandma?’ And I’d say John or Peter or Bill. I didn’t know them but I had talked to them.”
Weir was born in Swan River Valley, Manitoba and developed a strong work ethic right off the bat, growing up on a farm.
“You could never tell your parents you were bored because they always had another job for you,” she said.
“We had everything – cows, horses, pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, geese – and a big garden.”
From there, Weir’s prairie and west coast adventure began.
After meeting her husband, Weir lived in Saskatoon and moved to B.C. in 1973. There, the family reached places such as Dawson Creek, Mission, Houston, Prince Rupert and Fort St. James.
“We had gone through all of B.C. and [my husband] said ‘I want to go back to Rupert because that’s where good friends are’. So we came back to Rupert in ‘91 and I’ve been here ever since,” she said.
Within her role as president of the Seniors’ Centre, Weir encourages the senior community of the city to visit and return if they like it.
“I come here everyday and I do something pretty well everyday. I make a pot of soup on Monday and get ready to play cards. Tuesday is my free day. Wednesday, I work in the kitchen and call Bingo, Thursday I get ready for cards and Friday I normally call Bingo,” said Weir.
The president also organizes in-house raffles, pancake breakfasts and tea fundraisers to collect money for the trip to the BC Seniors’ Games every year. This summer, the games are in North Vancouver and it’s been tough organizing a dinner social at the conclusion of the event, but Weir is on the case.
“We’re sort of still looking for where we’re going to have it. It’s usually at the [Royal Canadian] Legion because they sponsored our medals [in the past], but in North Vancouver it’s too far away [from the games site]. It would be nice if we could charter a bus to get there, but we all fly down there [from the Northwest] and make our own way from home,” she said.
Despite being hesitant to take on the Zone 10 presidency, Weir was chosen by the seniors’ delegation from Haida Gwaii across to Kitimat and the Nass Valley.
“I know somebody had to do it, but I went into it very reluctantly. [Zone 10 Secretary and fellow Prince Rupert resident] Dawn Quast is excellent … She encouraged me and she’s been very helpful to me in our meetings in the three areas we have them (Kitimat, Terrace, Prince Rupert),” said Weir, adding Quast has also been the Seniors’ Centre coordinator for 12 years.
“She keeps saying she’s going to retire. I hope I’m not the president when she does. I’ve got one more year [in the role].”
Weir has worked in a number of places while in Prince Rupert before retirement. From making salads at KFC (“I liked it. It was [from] 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. when my daughter was in kindergarden and I would pick her up right after.”), to managing KFC, to buying a “new little Pontiac” from her first paycheque after working 27 days straight at a fish cannery, to working at SEARS.
“I was their floor salesman. Well holy smokes, I had to put barbecues together. There were more pieces left over when I was done putting the barbecue together than in the barbecue itself,” she said.
But it was a bakery in Fort St. James that grew on Weir the most.
“I just loved the people I worked with. I went in at seven in the morning. I cooked donuts, decorated them, sliced bread and then I went on cash and dealt with customers and was off work by two or three in the afternoon. It was the best job I had.”
Now, Weir’s energy is put towards helping seniors’ causes with Northern Health.
“When things don’t go right with Northern Health and a senior, I contact them and they usually try very hard to get what I’m trying to ask for,” she said.
“For instance, they want a certain amount of home care and if they don’t make it fully understood, they don’t get what they’re looking for. Lots of times it’s a language barrier [issue]. Eventually [the senior who doesn’t speak English as a first language] might get fed up and tell them to just go away at that point … We’re trying to get seniors to register [at Better at Home] so they can get an hour’s worth of housework done every week.”
Weir misses the farm [which has recently been purchased back into the family through her great nephew], but she has opportunities in Prince Rupert to simulate the experience, despite some canine interference.
“I’d like to grow a garden – I have a patio garden and I couldn’t figure out why the carrots wouldn’t grow, and here my little dog was eating the tops off my carrots,” she said.