September 26, 1948 – October 10, 2015.
Barb’s life was too short. She was someone who would have been the coolest old lady: Always eager to try something new with her grandchildren, dance to her favourite tunes or take off to visit far-flung friends. She will be missed so much but she will never be forgotten.
Barb was a lemonade girl. Whatever life tossed her way she looked on the bright side. Whether it was divorce or disease, she picked herself up and found something to look forward to. For Barb the glass was always half full, and empty glasses simply weren’t part of her life. For this and many other things Barb was a role model.
Barb was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 when her three daughters were in their teens and she was newly divorced. Her strength of character shone through her challenges. She seemed to know innately when to manage on her own, and when to reach out to friends and family for help. After surgeries and treatment she was in the clear for 17 years before her cancer came back. Not only was the cancer back, but it had already metastasized. For the next three years Barb lived life to the fullest; enjoying her grandchildren, travelling with friends and spending down time at her home in lower Lonsdale, all the while taking advantage of whatever treatment was available to her. It was only in the last few months that she seemed to stumble; feeling a little unsteady and taking long naps on a daily basis. Throughout it all she made sure to attend every family event and spend time with friends. It was as if she was trying to cram as much living as she could into her remaining time.
Barb walked gently on the earth. She wasn’t out to ‘rule the world’, but rather to embrace the life she had. Her priorities were to work to ensure she could live modestly and comfortably, nurture her family, and spend time with work, childhood and paddling friends. She made life decisions that allowed her to reach these goals. Whether it was where she lived, what food she ate to ensure good health, or how she spent her time, Barb made conscious, careful decisions to make a stressful life as simple as possible. She savored small victories: a delicious kale smoothie at her local health food store or a trip to Lonsdale Quay to source an ingredient for a new recipe.
As a young woman, Barb was pretty, popular and openhearted. The eldest of four children, she lived the majority of her life on Vancouver’s North Shore. She grew up in West Vancouver, attending Pauline Johnson Elementary , Hillside and West Vancouver Secondary Schools. More social than academic, Barb was a cheerleader and she loved a good dance party, often turning the family rec room into a dance hall to host her many friends. When Whistler opened, her bevy of friends followed her to Whistler where she skied and hosted them at the family cabin.
Through her charmed and relatively uneventful childhood, Barb’s family instilled in her the importance of independence and hard work, so Barb knew that education and getting a job were important goals. She continued her education at UBC graduating with a Teaching Certificate and a career in special education. This path was inspired by her summer work teaching physically and developmentally challenged children to swim in the family pool. She taught in Alberta and Ontario as her family moved east following work for her former husband, Brent Mitchell. The family returned to Vancouver in 1989 and within a few years Barb found herself on her own with three teenagers and a diagnosis of breast cancer. She threw herself into getting better, working and taking care of her girls. Although she was always positive and soldiered on, the next two decades were coloured by her diagnosis. However it was a diagnosis that brought her to a life-affirming experience, that of paddling with Abreast in a Boat, the breast cancer survivor dragon boat team.. She joined the team in 1999 and immediately became active on various committees, serving on the Board as Membership Vice Chair and Chair in 2004/05. She paddled out of Deep Cove during the transition of her team from AIAB to the North Shore Dragon Busters. Paddling in the cove brought her not only a sense of kinship with her friends and teammates but also a very real sense of peace. She was a valued team captain and will be remembered for her calm and wise leadership, her genuine care for others and her famous homemade soup, chive biscuits, and yummy cookies.
Among her friends, Barb had been the one who had battled and won the fight with breast cancer. This made her recurrence three years ago so sad. She had lost the last battle.
Barb is remembered with love by her many friends and by her mother, Elaine Wallace; her siblings Diane Switzer (Phillip); Sandra Ungar (Cliff) and Brent Wallace (Locinne); her children Sara Van Mulligen (Jeff ); Jody Phillips (Jeremy) and Erin Lyne (Matt); her grandchildren Ruby, Abby, Sonja, Nora, Mac, Caleb and Mabel; and by her nieces and nephews Jacob, Matthew, Rebecca, Hannah and Ryerson.
Joan Bruce Creighton
September 29, 1929 – May 13, 2010.
Ever young at heart, with a wicked sense of humour and an adventurous soul, Joan will be deeply missed by everyone who knew her.
Joan was an original member of the North Shore Dragon Busters and prior to that was a member of Abreast in a Boat since 2001. Originally paddling on the Barnett crew, she transferred to the Deep Cove crew and then transitioned to the North Shore Dragon Busters. She worked incredibly hard on the Abreast in a Boat board as Communications Vice Chair during our 10 Years Abreast Celebration. Her expertise as a board member and chair on several major boards such as the Koerner Foundation, the West Vancouver Library Foundation and the Vancouver Playhouse, to name just a few, was an incredible asset to AIAB during her stint as Communications Chair.
Joan and her husband Dennis “Dear” Creighton travelled extensively together but counted their “Adventure in Oz”, during the Australians Abreast Celebration, one of their best experiences. There, at the age of 78, Joan and her team paddled to a 4th place finish among the 75+ teams that participated.
Susan Dianne McMinn
October 8, 1945 – August 27, 2009.
Susie was one of the original members of the North Shore Dragon Busters and was a long time member of Abreast in a Boat before that. When a member of AIAB she had served as Sponsorship Vice-Chair and Chair in 2004 and 2005 respectively. On so very many occasions she volunteered to steer for other teams and therefore knew so many people within the AIAB organization. She was always there to help out whenever needed. She steered for the North Shore Dragon Busters since their inception in 2008 and was the heart of our team.
She loved life and approached it with an infectious joy that spread to all those around her. She was creative and funny. She led our chants at each regatta in such a loud voice and with the most amazing grin on her face that one couldn’t help but grin back even if one was on an opposing team. She supplied us with handmade paddling bling for each regatta and roped her sisters and daughters into making it with her if time was short. Her yells of encouragement from the back of our boat made us try harder in each and every race. And when she would be able to yell out “open water ladies” the pride she took in our team was so very heartfelt that occasional wardrobe malfunctions occured.
Gail Patricia Miles
March 21, 1942 – July 13, 2009.
Gail will be remembered for her incredible smile, her gift of really listening to people and making them feel they were very important to her, her shopping skills and her wonderful sense of humour.
Gail Miles was an original member of the North Shore Dragon Busters but began paddling with Abreast in a Boat in 2002. Her passion for the organization and for paddling were important parts of her varied and interesting life, which sadly ended on July 13, 2009. From sailing to horses, from travel to Nelson her dog, she gave so much of herself in everything she did.
In 2005 she co-chaired our incredible Saturday Night Dragon Fever event for the 10 Years Abreast celebration, a night that will be remembered by paddlers from all over the world. She joined the Abreast in a Boat board as Communications Chair in 2007 and in 2008 joined her team in transitioning to the North Shore Dragon Busters in Deep Cove where she paddled until just before her passing.
Gail’s desire to spread our message of hope as far afield as possible led her to South Africa, China, New Zealand and Australia as well as less exotic locals such as Texas, Portland, Kelowna, Nanaimo and Victoria. She leaves behind her children, grandchildren and her team-mates and friends who miss her very much and will always carry her memory in their hearts.
In 2007, the North Shore Dragon Busters evolved from the “Abreast in the Cove” dragon boat team, which was part of the umbrella group “Abreast in A Boat”. The North Shore Dragon Busters lovingly claim these women as their own and they will forever be in our hearts.
August 8, 2002.
March 26, 2003.
September 17, 2004.
December 16, 2005.
August 31, 2010.
October 20, 2011.