Sooke OAP#88 in 1969 celebrating the purchase of land for Ayre Manor cottages.

Sooke OAP#88 in 1969 celebrating the purchase of land for Ayre Manor cottages.

OAP#88 land purchase leads to Ayre Manor

Sooke area historian Elida Peers writes about the region's past

This group of seniors and many of their contemporaries raised the funds to purchase a five-acre property on Ayre Road. This became the site of Ayre Manor, a block of low cost housing units that was the beginning of a long-held dream, care for seniors in Sooke.

The robust development in health care and integration with VIHA that has taken place in recent years has resulted in an outstanding “Campus of Care” on Ayre Road.  When you view also the expanded series of independent housing units on site (now numbering 20) it may be hard to realize what this land looked like in 1969.

It was when Phyllis Gibson, a former matron of the little hospital at Lytton arrived in Sooke to join her sister who ran the café at the corner of Sooke and Townsend Roads, that care for seniors became a community focus. The café building had begun as a hut at Otter Point Army training camp and was hauled into Sooke after the war’s end by the Osborne family and converted into a much-needed restaurant in the centre of the village. (This café still stands, now offering a Thai menu.)

Mrs. Osborne’s sister Phyllis, newly retired from her Lytton nursing career, found a whole new dimension to her life, when helping out at the restaurant, she met a bachelor logger. Byron Johnson was an Icelander whose home was at the far end of Phillips Road. Over home-made pie, the romance began, and soon Phyllis became Mrs. Byron Johnson. Perhaps it is of interest to note that Sooke’s Byron was cousin to Premier of B.C. Byron “Boss” Johnson, 1947 to 1952, initiator of B.C.’s universal hospital insurance.

Already the holder of a medal from King George V, Phyllis was one of the leaders, along with Emily Nixon, in establishing OAPO #88 in 1964.  She was quick to see the need for long term care in the developing community, which initially was planned as a “boarding home” for seniors.

Five years later, after many canvases and bake sales and more, the group was able to make the final payment on the property, purchased under the auspices of Sooke Elderly Citizens Housing Society. The trail seen in this photo, April 2, 1969, was a shortcut route from Grant Road to Sooke Community Hall.  Left to right are Florence Rear, Tom Money, Amy and William Halley, Margaret (Clark) Perron, Rollie Hill, Phyllis Johnson, Frank Goodsell and his wife, and John Jackson.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum