REFLECTIVE MOMENTS Jean Roe continued life with “extra years of zest”
There was no Christmas card with a cheery note inside for Christmas 2017 and that should have raised a red flag in our household.
Our friend always contacted us once a year and we in turn sent her news of Moose Jaw and the people she knew and with whom she had worked while she lived in this city. In mid-September, on a hunch that had been nagging me for several weeks, I looked up our friend on Google, and to my dismay, learned that she had passed away in April this year at the age of 95. Then two days later, an item in the Globe and Mail Lives Lived section reiterated for me that Jean Scott Roe would not be sending us any more Christmas letters.
Anyone living in Moose Jaw in the 1970s to the mid1990s either knew Jean personally or knew of her. She knew no strangers, only potential friends. She was a force to be reckoned with when she set her mind to getting things done.
And her sense of humour was well-known, having a joke for every occasion, usually picking the theme of her home, Newfoundland, and proudly calling herself “a Newfie” even when that name was no longer politically correct.
Jean was an advocate of female-male equality and at one For Moose Jaw Express city council meeting, spoke in favour of male mail carriers being allowed to wear shorts during their delivery rounds. I recall her saying if women could wear shorts in public, the men should be allowed the same opportunity — and commented that men do have nice legs too. I don’t know if Canada Post heeded her words or changed its policy all on its own.
While city council members are now called “councillors,” in her term with municipal government the title was “alderman,” but she continued to call herself “alderwoman.”
When once called the “chair” of a committee, she responded in kind with the definition of a chair — an object on which to sit— and no one was sitting on her.
Jean was active on the early Canada Week and then Canada Day committees, for a time co-ordinating the queen contest and supporting the many other projects undertaken in those early years of the celebration.
As a member of the city’s 75th anniversary committee, she stood in line with the rest of us to meet Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Prince Edward. We were in period costume, causing Prince Philip to admire our quaint old clothes.
She is perhaps best known for her work as an organizer of the Extra Years of Zest (XYZ) Association, an organization designed to provide healthy and artistic activities for senior citizens. The association was first located in St. Andrew’s United Church where the on-site daycare was called ABC, a fitting route to XYZ. Both children and seniors flourished in that shared setting. Jean and others were also involved in the work of turning the former Eaton Department Store into housing units and a seniors’ activity centre with retail space fronting Main Street. The XYZ Auditorium is now part of the activity complex.
The recipient of numerous honours, awards and medals for her volunteer work across Canada, a highlight of her volunteerism was being named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1981. She was also named Citizen of the Year in Moose Jaw.
Jean Scott Roe was born in Botwood, Nfld. and grew up in Corner Brook. She married James Roe in 1954 and the couple moved to many locations in the West before settling in Moose Jaw. The couple followed journalistic paths in those areas with Jean writing for the Western Star, LeaderPost, Swift Current Sun, Moose Jaw Times-Herald and Moose Jaw This Week. James passed away in 1980.
She moved to British Columbia in 1993 and continued her community volunteer work until her passing. Jean is survived by daughters Jennifer, Elizabeth, Catherine and Charlotte, eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. She was taken home to Newfoundland as her final resting place.
Rest in peace, Jean. It was our privilege to have known and worked with you.
Joyce Walter can be reached at email@example.com