Surrounded by family, Caroline Waters passed away early last Tuesday morning at age 57 after a short battle with cancer and a lifetime dedicated to making the world a better place.
Waters, a former Parksville city councillor, library enthusiast, volunteer extraordinaire and, more importantly, mother of four daughters and longtime partner of Kim Burden, leaves behind a community she helped carve into what it is today.
“Parksville is the jewel in the Island’s crown,” she told The NEWS in an interview in 2011 during a bid for elected office.
And if Parksville could speak, it may say the same thing about her.
Born in Halifax and raised around the world by her mother and father, Barbara and Stan Waters — Stan was a commander with the Canadian Armed Forces who went on to become the first elected Senator in Canada — Caroline attended 26 schools living in Cyprus, Belgium and Germany to name a few places before making her way to the West Coast at age 14 to live with her Nana.
She attended the University of Calgary where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science launching a love affair with politics.
It was also through politics that she met the love of her life.
“We met in the middle of a political campaign for Judith Reid,” Burden said Thursday afternoon.
“She was working in the evenings and afternoons doing door knocking and I would come in and get my marching orders to do sign placement and I saw her name, and she saw my name, and we knew we were part of the same team and wanted to meet but never did during the campaign,” Burden recalled.
“But Judith asked us both to be on her board after the campaign and that’s where we really met … We certainly spent a lot of time together after that, got to know each other extremely well and ended up diving off the cliff together, as she put it.”
Caroline sat on the Coombs/Errington steering committee for the Official Community Plan, was deeply involved with the Coombs Fair, Communities in Bloom, Friends of the Library and Parksville Museum among many of her social endeavours.
Parksville communications officer Debbie Tardiff confirmed Caroline served on city council from 2003-2005, noting a motion was put forward at last night’s council meeting to erect a memorial tree and plaque in her honour.
“Caroline was so much in love with Parksville,” said Chris Burger, former Parksville mayor and councillor. “She was such a supporter of the city and in the entire 20 years I knew her she was always engaged and involved in advancing the community, it’s a sad loss for all of us.”
Burger said she was a staunch supporter of literacy and libraries, preserving the heart of the city and promoting Communities in Bloom.
“I have had many arguments with Caroline politically and she certainly had a different style in how she approached the job but always with the city at heart,” said Burger. “She was the polar opposite of selfish. When we had our first baby it was Caroline who showed up with Lego and all sorts of things, rest assured when you needed something Caroline would be there and not just for us, for anyone… She really was a positive force in the city.”
After serving on council, Caroline worked as former Parksville Qualicum MLA Ron Cantelon’s constituency assistant from 2006-2013.
“Caroline cared deeply for the community as a whole and about the people in it, she took particular interest in helping people who had unfortunate experiences and needed social or medical services,” said Cantelon. “Her primary role was trying to manage me, which is always a challenge.”
Asked why he hired Caroline, Cantelon said: “I met her through Liberal functions and was very impressed, she has a very good university education and frankly, the fact that she thought I would be a good candidate gave me confidence… So when I first got elected, her name was one of the first that came to mind… I thought she’d be perfect and she was.”
Caroline was diagnosed with stage four oesophageal cancer in April. Doctors gave her six months to live.
Burden said they spent the following months with family and close friends, renting out a lakefront house in Naramata last summer embracing the warmth of the beaming Okanagan sun, the breathtaking beauty of British Columbia and the fleeting moments of serenity now locked in the past.
“She lived life to the fullest,” said Burden. “She was a free spirit in so many ways and I learned early on it was impossible to control her and I was dangerously slapped for trying… She forgave almost instantly but always remembered and I certainly have a long list.”
Burden paused for a moment, mindfully recalling one of their last conversations.
“She woke me up and said ‘take me out side’ so I put her in her wheelchair and away we went, and we were sitting out on our sun deck at 1 a.m. and we sat there for, God, I was frozen, a long time and finally she said to me ‘can I go now?’ and I said, ‘Of course you can, sweetie.’”
A celebration of life will be held in honour of Caroline Waters this Saturday, Oct. 10 from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Quality Resort Bayside. The public is invited. In lieu of flowers, the family asks to please support your local library.