Geraldine (Gerry) Petronella Maria Braak (van den Heuvel) passed away peacefully on August 6, 2022.
Gerry was predeceased by her parents, her husband John and her siblings Hubert, Josephine and John. She is survived by her brother Bill (wife Mary); her daughter Diana (husband Craig) and son Steven; her granddaughter Rozanna and grandson Ryan (Bonnie), and great-granddaughter Kaitlyn; her nieces and nephews Elly, Steve, David, Joyce, Shauna, Jeff and Diana and their families; and so many others in Canada and the Netherlands.
Gerry was born on December 2, 1936, in Brunssum, the Netherlands. In her teens, she immigrated to Canada with her family, landing in Halifax and making their way to Saskatchewan.
It was in Saskatoon where Gerry met her future husband of 64 years John. They married in Kitimat, BC, and in 1960 made Powell River their family home.
Gerry’s visual disability was slow to progress, becoming completely blind by the age of 52. However, her enthusiasm to change the world’s view of all disabilities was not slow. Her passion for enriching the disabled started in Powell River; she felt a local chapter of Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) was required, so became the White Cane Club of Powell River. Gerry and others created the Powell River Model Community Project for Persons with Disabilities (MCP), which has been used as a model for communities around the world. Within that purview they also started Jump Radio. Her pride and joy is a section in the local library which she worked hard to have created: Accessible Books: Talking Books for People with Print Disabilities.
Gerry’s journey took her across Canada educating governments and private corporations to ensure safety of those with disabilities is a top priority. She worked directly with the Bank of Canada, on the “talking bill readers” and adding braille to bills, and with Air Canada and Canadian Airlines to ensure access for all disabled passengers was available and safe. Eventually that journey led her to the Rick Hansen Foundation, where they joined forces to continue that enrichment of the disabled. Her journey continued with her husband John, travelling all over the world with the World Blind Union; whether in Egypt, Hong Kong, Australia, India, Jamaica or Powell River, that enthusiasm and passion never waned. Gerry’s sense of power to enrich the handicapped also gave her mention with the governments of Canada and British Columbia, becoming a recipient of the Order of Canada (Officer) and the Order of British Columbia. Over the years, she received numerous “lifetime honours, including an honorary Doctor of Law degree. A “coffee table” book dedicated to 50 of the 7,000 recipients of the Order of Canada was published; Gerry was one of those selected.
Through her advocate career, Gerry was a president and director of the CCB, and a director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. With more than 30 years of dedicated work, her accomplishments are too many to mention.
Thank you to all volunteers who assisted Mum over the years, whether accompanying her to meetings in Powell River or across Canada, or taking her to doctor appointments or calling her to read the newspaper to her (thank you, Susan). And those who came to her home to visit, just because they could, brought Mum great joy. She loved her daily visits from everyone.
“Dear mum, sister, aunt, oma and friend, you will be dearly missed; we will love you always. Your hard work will not be forgotten, but you can rest now.”
The funeral will be held at the Church of the Assumption, 7109 Glacier Street, Powell River, BC, on Friday, August 26, 2022, at 1 pm.
Memorial donations are greatly appreciated to Powell River Accessible Books: Talking Books for People with Print Disabilities (Powell River Public Library, 100-6975 Alberni Street, Powell River, BC, V8A 2B8).