Part proud Haida descent, part dedicated environmentalist, part community worker, part devoted earth mother, Louise Wright Graham Paterson has died at the age of 85.
Born in Bella Bella where her parents fished, Louise was daughter to Flora (Brown) Manion and Frank Wright, granddaughter to Percy Brown and Mary Jane McKenzie and great-2granddaughter to George Brown and Agatha.
When George Brown married Agatha, daughter of the Haida Gwaii Chief QueeJak, the couple settled on East Sooke land, close to the home of Aaron Denton White and his wife Owechemis (Kitty), in the late 1880s.
The child Louise Wright was raised in the Great Depression by her mother, had a colourful upbringing, with a farming and fishing background, (the Browns were well known for the turnips they marketed in Victoria) and attended East Sooke School. After Milne’s Landing High School opened in 1946, she and her brother Vern were among the East Sooke kids who attended by school bus.
Though the school circumstances were comfortable enough in those days, Louise was proud to tell of her aunt Ellen Brown who walked in earlier days as far as Seagirt to attend the local school in 1899. She told “one day when a cougar chose to dispute the right of way … Ellen ordered her brother Percy, to run home and get the hired man with a rifle … when the hired man arrived, the fury of the snarling spitting cat totally unnerved him and he was unable to shoot. Ellen swept the gun from his hand and dispatched the cougar.”
In Louise’s childhood they lived close to the earth, with their diet augmented by fishing and hunting. She laughed telling about one time that the game warden Jack Lenfesty had stopped by the Brown home and been invited to dinner. After the group had enjoyed a succulent roast, he thanked the Browns for their hospitality and went on his way – Louise said they were never sure if he had guessed that the roast was out of season venison.
Louise married young, raising a large family. Her daughter Robin says, “Not only for us, but my warm-hearted mom welcomed all children and any abandoned pets that needed a home.”
She was passionately devoted to the pioneer family’s history and their land in Becher Bay. Louise’s concern for protecting the land was so great that in her later years she arranged that flora and fauna and cairns on the property be secured through protective covenants.
Louise became a warden for East Sooke Regional Park, and her involvement in the parks recreational world led to a bit of politics, and she was elected as chair of the Sooke Electoral Area Parks and Recreation Commission, a post she held when the SEAPARC pool was opened in 2000.
With changes due to Sooke’s incorporation, Louise’s role was to become chair of the Juan de Fuca Parks and Recreation Commission, a responsibility she held right to her passing. Passionate about her involvement in community affairs, she worked for the greater good of all.
One of my memories of Louise goes back to 1997, when a group of Sookites set out for Skagway, Alaska to hike the Chilkoot Pass. Louise was to join up with us at Prince Rupert where we were to board the Alaska State Ferry. She was delayed in starting out because she was making little felt booties for her dog’s feet, as we would be climbing shale and rock to reach the summit. Louise never showed up and it was only on our return that we learned why.
Reaching Williams Lake she had called home and found that her mother Flora Manion had taken ill. Turning around, Louise drove back to East Sooke and nursed her mother through her final illness – that was Louise!
Left to mourn are her children Fay Tateham (Bruce), Robin Graham, Shane Graham, Nancy Vieira (Dino), June Graham (Al), Lou-Anne Diebold (Mick), her grandchildren Rudy, Roseanne, Tyler, Angie, Marisa, David, Olivia, Enya, Julie, Jerrald, Andy, numerous great-grandchildren and her brother Vern Wright. She was predeceased by daughter Tina Marie and grandson Cody Diebold. Louise’s family has announced plans for a Celebration of her Life at the Brown homestead in the spring.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.