It would be hard to imagine anyone with the energy to pack more activities into her life than Lorna Frances Steadman Barry, who passed away Feb. 27, a day short of her 87th birthday.
As a young girl she learned early in life to take on responsibilities, with the early passing of her father, and she stayed on this path right through to her final illness.
Born in the village of Shelford, England, in Nottingham, she was employed as a pieceworker in a dressmaking factory at 14; perhaps this was where she formed the habit of using her time productively, helping with family finances.
While still in her teens she met Scottish airman Ronald Barry and before long the new Mrs. Barry accompanied her husband to his Royal Air Force Base on the Penang Peninsula of Malaysia.
After their return to Britain the couple, with their children Ronald and Lorraine, decided to embark on a new life in Canada, arriving in 1956.
Settling in Victoria first, with her husband employed as a shipwright at Dockyard, Lorna worked part time while raising a family of five, as three more Barry sons were born: Robert, Edward and Andrew.
Wanting to raise their family in the country, with the pursuits and chores of a small farm, the Barrys moved to Sooke, where they bought a home at Coopers Cove.
Even though she took on the family gardening as well as fixing sumptuous refreshments for the many guests entertained at their home, Lorna still found time to develop an interest in politics.
She served on Sooke Forum Council for to start, and in 1990 ran for the position of Sooke regional director on the Capital Regional District board.
During her three year term as director, Sooke was in a period of transition, and land use was becoming a major issue.
Lorna served as chair of the CRD parks committee, sat on the municipal services committee and on the board of B.C. Transit. As well, she worked toward a long term care centre for Sooke, and encouraged support for the arts.
During her term, Sooke hosted the 1991 visit of the Spanish naval training schooner Juan Sebastian de Elcano. Sooke’s legendary generosity of spirit was demonstrated by the welcoming banquet for the officers and cadets, held at Sooke Community Hall, and hosted entirely by volunteers. Among the celebrated guests were Antonio Jose Fournier, Spain’s Ambassador to Canada, and Captain Pedro LaPique who are shown here presenting Lorna with a gift for Sooke. This gift, a replica ship’s cannon, can be seen today in the display cabinet in the District of Sooke council chamber.
A supporter of the longboat racing competitions, and the King of Spain’s Cup, she and Ron attended the annual competitions held locally and at Port Townsend, Wash., and at Astoria on the Columbia River. During her term, Mayor John Clise of Port Townsend did Sooke the honour of twinning with us, becoming a sister city to Sooke.
When she decided not to run again, Lorna busied herself with volunteer work, becoming chair of Sooke Marine Rescue Society, and a director of Sooke Festival Society. She helped with organizing the visit of Canada’s Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc for Sooke’s 150th anniversary in 1999 and helped with organizing the Welcome to the XV Commonwealth Games athletes on Sooke Flats in 1994.
When Sooke voted for incorporation in June 1999, Lorna decided to throw her hat back in the ring, and was elected to two terms as a councillor of the fledgling municipality. A fellow Councillor, John Farmer, has this to say:
“I had the pleasure of working alongside Lorna for two terms on Sooke council. Lorna exemplified what all councillors should hope to aspire to. She worked hard, was always prepared and investigated any item on the agenda that she was not sure of. I can proudly say Lorna was part of making sure we acquired the waterfront park, that the sewer project moved ahead on budget and on time. Those first six years with Lorna represented the Camelot of District accomplishments we will probably never experience again. I would be amiss if I did not point out that Lorna was as astute and extremely careful in budget deliberations and was always watching out for excess councillor expenses. What a great lady – and may she rest in peace.”
Deciding once again to retire from politics, Lorna joined the Sooke Region Historical Society board, serving as treasurer. When the Olympics came along, Lorna helped with Sooke’s hosting of the torch as well. Over the years Lorna and Ron particularly enjoyed occasions when they travelled back to Britain to visit family members.
In time, her strength for gardening chores declined and she and Ron downsized to a home near Woodside Farm for their retirement, where they continued to invite friends.
Lorna was never quite the same after losing her daughter Lorraine in 2012 and then her husband of 66 years, in 2017, but she made every effort to be the responsible, hospitable supportive community member she had always been.
She leaves her four sons: Ronald (Marlene), Rob (Sheila), Ed (Theresa), Andy (Jennifer), 15 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Her family will be announcing a Celebration of her Life at a later date.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.