Artist shared First Nation culture and art with community

Darlene George’s final days spent at home watching the waves at Sooke Bay

Darlene George was described as an “endearing, charming and talented artist.” (Contributed - George Family)

Darlene George was described as an “endearing, charming and talented artist.” (Contributed - George Family)

Elida Peers | Contributed

A quietly endearing, charming and talented artist of the T’Sou-ke Nation has left us.

Darlene George’s final illness was spent at her home watching the waves at Sooke Bay, surrounded by siblings Linda, Rick, Denise, Damien, and Diane.

Darlene was born into the Norman (Dick) and Anastasia (Day) George family in 1960 and grew up at their family home on Lazzar Road, IR No. 1.

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Former schoolmate Laurie (McClimon) Szadkowski tells us, “I met Darlene when we started Grade 1 at Saseenos Elementary in 1966. We made our way through school and graduated from Edward Milne with a lot of that same group. It was when everyone knew everyone in Sooke – all the moms and dads, brothers and sisters.”

“She was the person everyone knew and liked. As childhood friends have remembered her over the last few days, we’ve heard words like athlete, artist, dedicated community member, and beautiful inside and out. And that smile! The last time we were together, we watched our grandkids play ball and joked about how we could be old enough to have grandchildren when we still felt like those two kids meeting in our Grade 1 class long ago.”

While still in high school, Darlene got a summer job at the museum, and so began decades of partnership as she undertook many illustrations and carvings for us.

Among Darlene’s earliest art legacies are the fascinating illustrations found in Legends of T’Sou-ke and West Coast Bands, a booklet she worked on with Sandra (Cooper), Laurie, and Francine George in 1978 and in That Was Our Way of Life – Memories of Susan Lazzar Johnson.

Another classmate Doni Eve recalls, “I have fond memories of sharing art classes with Darlene when we were in school together at Edward Milne Secondary. She was an exceptional artist and generously shared her talent with the community. She will be very much missed.”

Darlene married and doted on her daughter she called Taisy – named for her grandmother Anastasia. Independent once more, she became a teaching aide within several Sooke schools, working at John Muir, Sooke Elementary and Journey Middle School. While she assisted students with math and reading, she shone in courses that shared her culture.

A co-worker, retired teacher Margaret Banner, tells us, “I really enjoyed working with Darlene at John Muir Elementary, where we had fun together and were a good team. Darlene had a kind and caring manner with the students. She enjoyed sharing her love of art with them. They were mesmerized by her instructions on learning how to draw pictures of the salmon and the whale in the First Nations’ theme. Darlene also had the students sew button blankets made of red and black felt and sequins. The children were so pleased with their art projects.”

One of the personal projects she enjoyed was teaming up with cousin Virgil Bob in drum making; he would stretch the skins, and she would paint their colourful design.

In 1990 our entire region commemorated the 200th anniversary of Spain’s voyage of exploration in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In this event, Darlene George played a significant role. She was the designer of the two round monuments carved in yellow cedar that remain showpieces at Quimper Park Heritage Site at Whiffin Spit, the chief looking out to sea and the incoming sailing vessel.

Darlene’s art included several works for the T’Sou-ke Nation and a carved rondelle at SEAPARC. When the museum published our history volume –The Sooke Story – the History and the Heartbeat in 1999, Darlene’s art appeared there.

Possibly her largest commissioned work was the 30-square-foot cedar panel that graces the pavilion at the museum, where her detailed carving illustrates a view of First Nations’ life.

Although she accomplished so much, Darlene had not been gifted with robust health and had suffered a life-threatening aneurism in recent years. Her activities restricted, she continued to quietly enjoy, with long-time husband Dave Barnett, practising her artistic skills at their oceanfront home.

The George family cemetery has become Darlene’s final resting place after a service at the T’Sou-ke Cultural Hall on Tuesday (April 12). Predeceased by eldest sister Linda, brother Damien and grandson Cuyler, Darlene leaves her husband Dave, daughter Taisy, sisters Denise and Diane, brother Rick, and grandchildren Hayden, Mackenzie, Logan, and nieces, nephews and friends.

Our community would have been the poorer without her.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email historian@sookeregionmuseum.com.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

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