Longtime volunteer retires from Port Alberni’s Abbeyfield House

Doreen Bessette accepts a card and necklace from Marlene Dietrich of Abbeyfield House prior to Canada Day celebrations at the seniors’ housing complex. Bessette, a founder, retired from the Abbeyfield board. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Doreen Bessette shows Sandi Paterson the necklace she received from Abbeyfield House treasurer and founding member Marlene Dietrich, right, on her retirement from the board, July 1, 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Doreen Bessette, a founding member of Abbeyfield House in Port Alberni, thanks residents and fellow board members during a retirement presentation on Canada Day 2020. ((SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Doreen Bessette, front, with her husband Bob and Abbeyfield founding member Marlene Dietrich celebrate Bessette’s retirement from the board with fellow board members as well as Abbeyfield House residents on July 1, 2020. ((SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Abbeyfield House residents in Port Alberni kicked off their Canada Day celebration by honouring a longtime volunteer on Wednesday, July 1.

Doreen Bessette and her husband Bob were founding members of Abbeyfield House, working with the late Terry Whyte to bring the seniors’ housing development to Port Alberni. Doreen Bessette spent 22 years on the board of directors, and announced this year that she would be retiring.

“They said we couldn’t have an Abbeyfield House of 20 people, but we did,” Bessette said, calling the seniors’ facility a success. She said having the portion of the old West Coast General Hospital become available was the best thing that happened for Abbeyfield, which took over the spot.

“We were lucky to have Bob Howard (as a volunteer) because he had worked at the hospital,” Bessette recalled.

Howard was able to find equipment to repair what they had in the early years.

Bessette also lauded fellow founders Marlene and Phil Dietrich, calling them “the backbone of Abbeyfield” for all the work they put into it when it first opened.

Marlene Dietrich, former chair of the board and now treasurer, presented Bessette with a card and necklace, thanking her for more than two decades of service to Abbeyfield House.

Bissette assured residents she would still come and visit.

Pianist Sandi Paterson led residents in some singing, then there were table games and a barbecue to wrap up festivities.

(EDITED: The original version of this story misspelled Doreen Bessette’s name. We regret the error and apologize to Mrs. Bessette for any embarrassment this may have caused.)

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