1930 – 2014
For 45 years Bill Rumsby devoted himself to working for seniors’ housing in Sooke. Born into a family that believed in community service, he was the youngest of three children of Frank and Nettie Rumsby and grew up in the family’s waterfront home in Saseenos.
The number of years he supported the cause of seniors extended beyond even the years he worked as an electrician, in a family of electricians. His granddad Frank was hired in Jordan River when the Vancouver Island Power Company was establishing the hydro operation there in the early 1900s. This was the hydro-electric system which would begin supplying Victoria and the lower Island with power, and so, a century ago, a family electrical tradition was born.
As a kid Bill bicycled to Sooke School but was only in his teens when he decided to try his wings and went to Victoria to work for the Canadian Coast Guard. It wasn’t long, though, before the family trade called, and he got his journeyman’s papers. In later years he teamed up with elder brother Larry in Sooke as Rumsby Electric.
In 1981 Bill married Kathryn Blizzard, a stenographer, and the couple made their home on Solent Street. While they enjoyed a quiet home life, particularly reading, and taking on the challenges of puzzles, the two were drawn to explore Canada and visit with Kathryn’s parents in Toronto. They travelled by motorhome, taking photographs all along the way.
In 1969 he became a pioneer member of the Elderly Citizens Housing Society, established to initiate a seniors housing complex on a parcel of land that Sooke’s seniors had managed to acquire by diligent fundraising. A series of independent housing blocks were established over time, called Ayre Manor.
Bill didn’t just serve a term or two, he stayed through thick and thin, leading a number of initiatives over the years, especially as Sooke’s senior population grew, in trying to attract provincial support in establishing a seniors’ long term care facility in Sooke.
Sometimes it can be hard to stay with a goal when it seems insurmountable, but by the time that the District of Sooke was incorporated, and Council’s political support was added to the efforts of many others, serious planning for an extended care facility could actually take place.
In 2008 Bill was honoured by the Sooke Harbour Chamber of Commerce as “Citizen of the Year.” His wife Kathryn was able to see him receive this recognition before she passed away the following year.
When land for the planned new facility under VIHA remained a stumbling block, the Elderly Citizens Housing Society offered a portion of their long-held grounds and that’s where the Ayre Manor Campus of Care sits today. Last year the Housing Society named him an Honourary Life Member.
It’s no wonder the seniors group organized a special afternoon tea event for Bill in April, honouring him for his forty-five years of caring. The following week, Bill himself was transferred to a bed at the Centre he had helped to build, and on the last day of May he slipped quietly away.
The date for the memorial service for William Robert Rumsby, to be held at St Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Townsend Road, will be announced shortly.
Sooke Region Museum