50 years ago in Powell River: A bright spirit passes

The photo above and article below were originally published in the Powell River News on November 20, 1969.

Mrs. Olive Devaud: A bright spirit passes

article continues below

By John Smail

A bright spirit passed from the Powell River scene Sunday, November 16, 1969, with the death of Mrs. Olive Devaud.

To many oldtimers, she is better remembered as “Nurse Wood.” To more intimate friends she was “Janie.” Of herself she said: “I’m plain Jane and no nonsense.”

“Plain Jane and no nonsense” perhaps described Nurse Wood RN, who served in wartime London from 1914 to 1918; then in Vernon Jubilee Hospital; and finally Powell River Hospital in 1926, where she worked with the late Dr. Charles Marlatt.

Born in Sheldon Hall, Warwickshire, England, in June 1887, Nurse Wood came to Powell River in 1926 and adopted a “no nonsense” attitude towards the running of Powell River’s first hospital, which occupied the site below the present P.R. General, now the Kenmar building.

Mrs. Iris McQuarrie remembers those days when, with trepidation, she went to visit her husband Bud, then under Nurse Wood’s care.

“She wouldn’t take any nonsense from visitors or patients,” said Mrs. McQuarrie, “but I managed to be a frequent visitor without getting told off.”

This “no nonsense” attitude didn’t alienate patients. Quite the opposite. Nurse Wood became respected for her competence. She was a welcome guest in many Powell River homes during times of confinement.

“I remember we were expecting our first baby and I asked Nurse Wood to come in and help me. She agreed. Then on the first visit instead of talking about babies, she announced she was going to get married,” said Mrs. McQuarrie.

Nurse Wood married Alphonse Devaud in 1934, and from here on the strict disciplinarian “No nonsense” Nurse Wood became one of Powell River’s most philanthropic citizens. During 20 years of their marriage this modest couple gave nearly all they possessed to Powell River.

They gave a 10-acre section of land in Westview to Powell River Hospital in the hope that this would be chosen as the new hospital site. To their disappointment the hospital was built on the old site overlooking the mill.

Later, after the death of her husband in 1954, Mrs. Devaud was persuaded to subdivide the land, but the proceeds went to the hospital. Six acres of this land went to the Sunset Homes for senior citizens for $1. Mrs. Devaud also contributed $6,000 in cash towards the building.

Moose Hall came into being in like fashion. Alphonse Devaud said he would give the land to any organization willing to provide service to the community. Moose Lodge was falling on bad times and several members went to “3 o’clock tea” at the Devauds to discuss it.

“Tea was always served at 3 o’clock,” said Mrs. Iris McQuarrie. “Not only did Alphonse give us the hand on Joyce Avenue, but he gave us some money to start building; and Olive contributed another $1,000,” she added.

So it went with the Boy Scout building in the same area. And the “log cabin” on Joyce, which the Devauds donated to Powell River Unitarians.

With the passing of her husband, Mrs. Devaud became generous to a fault. She was a spendthrift with a difference; she couldn’t see two dollars in her bank account but she had to spend a dollar seventy-five of it on somebody else. During the building of Sunset Homes, the society bookkeeper often found his accounts thrown out of kilter by anonymous $500 credits suddenly showing in the bank account. Similarly many local people have found themselves saved from financial embarrassment through Mrs. Devaud’s generosity.

These truths about Mrs. Devaud would not have been permitted during her lifetime. She was as modest as she was generous. Her own life was frugal.

“She was always thinking of somebody else,” said her sister-in-law Mrs. Carol Wood. “When Mrs. Devaud died she had very little property left in her own name and very little cash in the bank.”

Said alderman Norm Hill, also president of Sunset Homes Society: “She was a little woman with a big heart. She has given all she owned.”

Mrs. Devaud was a founder member of the Royal College of Nursing and National College of Nurses in the U.K.; a charter member of Women of the Moose and president of the St. David Society, and was the recipient of Powell River’s Good Citizen Award in 1952.

In 1965, Mrs. Devaud published a small volume of her verse “Odes by O.D.” Perhaps she wrote her own epitaph when she wrote:

“Since she came to Powell River; the outlook clears; the place and the people are dearer yet; most other years she will soon forget.”

A memorial service will be held in St. John’s Westview United Church, Sunday, November 23, 1969, at 2 pm with reverend Roy Rodges officiating. Women of the Moose will take part in the service.

In her will, Mrs. Devaud asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to Sunset Homes Society. There was no funeral service preceding cremation.

Copyright © Powell River Peak

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