Dr. Brock Chisholm was the first director-general of the World Health Organization. He retired to Sooke in the 1950s.

SOOKE HISTORY: First WHO director-general made Sooke home

Dr. Brock Chisholm arrived here in the early 1960s

The World Health Organization is much in the news these days, with epidemic following epidemic. Perhaps there aren’t many locals who know that the internationally-acclaimed first director-general of the World Health Organization made his final home in Sooke.

Dr. Brock Chisholm arrived here in the early 1960s, choosing a site on the waterfront just a bit west of today’s boundary between Sooke and Otter Point.

Dr. Chisholm served as director-general of the World Health Organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, from 1948 to 1953.

Dr. Chisholm was born in Ontario in 1896, served in the First World War, became a physician, psychiatrist and rose to a major-general in the army prior to his international appointment.

It was through Jean Robinson, a longtime Otter Point resident and historian, that I met Dr Chisholm.

Because Robinson was active in community affairs, and she had made his acquaintance right away on his arrival as a neighbor, she wasted no time before inviting him as feature speaker at a local meeting.

Robinson’s son, Donald Robinson, who now lives in Port Clements, Haida Gwaii, tells us that Dr. Chisholm’s wife was related to the Birks Jewellers family, so perhaps that’s why the couple chose to retire on the west coast.

Don tells us that Dr. Chisholm also served locally as a member of the Kemp Lake Water Board, and a special enjoyment of his retirement years was playing the pump organ.

We hear from folks who knew the Chisholms that they were friendly, kind-hearted people who took a special interest in neighbourhood kids, letting them use their rowboats to fish from their waterfront beach.

Apparently, Dr. Chisholm adorned his new home with a Swiss cowbell brought with him from his tenure in Switzerland. He also had a tramway built to haul firewood up from the beach.

Karl Linell recalls that his dad Oke Linell was employed to do yardwork at times and Karl would go along to help in the early 1960s. He recalls that while the Chisholms cleared enough growth to afford a view, they were careful to preserve as many trees as possible. Bill Jessiman is another neighbor who recalls the Chisholms when he was a youngster.

Young fellows of course, take particular note of vehicles, and we have heard tales of the silver Jaguar and the pale green Rover driven by Dr. Chisholm that so impressed the community until the good doctor died in 1971.

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Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.