The original plan was to stay for a couple years, but more than four decades later Dale White’s eyes remain forward in the marathon of life — he hasn’t looked back on ‘what might have been’ if he and his wife hadn’t chose to stay in Prince Rupert.
While born in Vancouver, Dale says he is from Prince Rupert whenever asked.
It was his wife Pat that would bring Dale to the North Coast in the 1970s, who he says he met in a chance coincidence while the two were attending university.
“The one and only time I dropped a course at university and switched into another one ended up being the opportunity to meet my wife. She was in the class that I dropped-in to,” Dale recalled.
The two were assigned to the same group for a project. In another chance occurrence, all the other group members dropped out of the project, giving Dale and Pat the opportunity to form a connection. A short time later, the two would be married.
In the 1970s student enrolment was increasing around B.C., making teaching jobs easy to come by when Dale and Pat were nearing graduation. There were even recruiters from school districts around B.C. stationed in universities, interviewing potential candidates for positions.
As Pat waited for an interview one day, she was approached by a principal from Prince Rupert who had taken notice of her abilities. After the interview Pat was offered a job in Prince Rupert. The only condition she had was that there would have to be another position open for her husband, with both being hired to start the September following graduation.
While they originally agreed they would spend two years in the community, Pat wound up educating children at King Edward and Lax Kxeen until her retirement, with Dale remaining at Prince Rupert Secondary School (PRSS) for his entire career.
And teaching is in the White family’s blood, with all three of the couple’s children going on to teach. Their eldest son Greg spent two years teaching English in Korea, second son Garrett is finishing off schooling to become a teacher and their daughter Kyrie works in a daycare and has her diploma in early childhood education.
The first class Dale taught at PRSS was packed full of more than 30 Grade 9 and 10 students, which he remembers as being a boisterous group of kids.
“That first semester was a real learning experience for me,” Dale said, adding he felt somewhat overwhelmed to begin with, but knew if he could make it through he’d be OK.
Another thing Dale remembers during his first few years at the high school was the huge teacher turnover rate.
“Everybody moved around for the first couple of years, but once it stabilized there was a core group of about a dozen teachers who I really enjoyed working with,” he said, noting a number of them, like him, would remain at the school until their retirement.
Dale said it was a pleasure to work alongside PRSS’ veteran staff members and form friendships with them over the years.
Now retired, Dale remains a teacher-on-call and spends some of his free time providing free tutoring to students at the Prince Rupert Library. He explained it’s not something he does as a “selfless, Mother Teresa-sort-of-thing”.
“I’m doing it because I get something out of it, that’s all … kids are neat,” he said, adding he still enjoys being able to work with students.
All the extra time at the library made Dale realize how valuable it, and other community facilities, are to quality of life in Prince Rupert and how important it is to maintain them.
Dale said he wanted to do what he could to help the library, recently becoming a member of the Prince Rupert Library board of directors.
Just a few of the ways he has contributed to Prince Rupert over the years, Dale is an unassuming man. He’s more eager to recognize what others have done for him than to acknowledge any of his contributions to the community.
“I’m more grateful of what other people have done for me than anything I’ve done individually,” he said.
Dale has also helped with the Rupert Running Club in the years since his retirement. While he was always an active person, running was something Dale had no desire to do for most of his life.
“I was famous (at the gym) as the guy who read while on the treadmill,” he laughed, noting it was a student who got him to quicken his pace.
When he was working as a learning resource teacher at PRSS, Dale was coerced by a student to join her gym class in a “beep test”, which has students run across the gym as many times as possible, trying to beat a beep that gets faster each time.
Dale said his poor performance in the test motivated him to start running, and eventually he was able to run five kilometres.
An injury had prevented Dale from running for awhile, but when he was ready to start again the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The Rupert Runners Club was advertising its “Learn to Run” program.
Now one of its core members, Dale said he enjoys the social aspect of the club best.
“I like their company,” he said, adding the group is really supportive.
“All of us chip in somehow. That, to me, exemplifies Prince Rupert … people step up and do what is needed.”
Ordinarily extremely modest, Dale is proud that in his 60s, he completed the half-marathon in the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon in October. But in typical fashion, it wasn’t about competing but socializing and having a good time.
“I caught up to one woman and was talking with her, and she says ‘I don’t mean to be rude but I can’t talk when I’m running. But please keep talking, it’s helping distract me’,” he laughed.
The Whites may have had planned to stay in Prince Rupert for two years, but more than 40 years later Dale has no regrets about staying.
Throughout the years Dale had students in his social studies and English classes ponder what could have been if situations had happened differently, but it is not a question he has turned around on himself.
“That idea of ‘what if … what if my wife hadn’t been standing outside of that classroom? What if she hadn’t been offered that job? Where would we have been? I have absolutely no regrets. I’m happy to be a Rupertite.”