Since his retirement more than nine years ago, John Richardson has been actively involved in the community of Port Alberni as a volunteer.
Born in Hackney—a suburb of London, England—John lived and and grew up in a small town called Buckhurst Hill, Essex. “I was an only child and had a wonderful loving childhood,” he said. “We didn’t have much money but always had food on the table and I had clean clothes to wear. I left school after taking the “O” level exams at 17 and my first job was with the Ministry of the Environment in London,” he added.
(The exams taken at the end of a formal high school education in Britain were called “O” levels. They were used as a guide for employment. If one wished to go to university, they could take two more years of schooling and take the “A” level exams. This education system was replaced in the 1980s with a new multi-level examination system).
John’s mother met his future wife Penny’s mother in the mid 1940s in London. After Penny’s family moved to Canada after the war, the two women kept in touch by letter. Letters and family pictures would be mailed to each other over the years as their families grew up.
“So when I wanted to go on a trip in 1973, it was—I suppose—natural to go to Vancouver where Penny’s family lived and that’s how Penny and I first met,” said John. “Although being two months apart in age, we kind of always knew of each other.”
John emigrated to Canada late 1974, coming directly to Port Alberni where Penny was starting her teaching career. They were married at the old Government Office on Elizabeth Street in December 1974.
“I worked for four years at the movie theatre and drive-in and for a year at the Tyee Village Motel, before taking the job as Circulation Manager at the Alberni Valley Times in October 1981,” said John. At the time, the newspaper was a five-day publication and counted on 160 carriers for delivery.
In 1982, John and Penny welcomed their daughter Jen as they continued living in Port Alberni. And in 1992, they sponsored John’s mother, Marjorie, to immigrate to Canada, 18 months after John’s father passed away in England. Marjorie did enjoy her life in Port Alberni with new friends and activities.
Jen graduated from the old ADSS in 2000. She moved to England in 2010 and now lives and works there. Penny retired from teaching in 2008.
After 31 years working for the Alberni Valley Times, John retired in 2012. “Unfortunately, by that time the proud local newspaper was in decline,” said John.
John’s active involvement as a volunteer began soon after retirement when he was invited to join the Alberni Valley Ambassador Program, greeting and helping tourists get around the Alberni Valley. He enjoyed many happy Sundays working at Cathedral Grove with Louis Aumair, riding the Frances Barkley to Bamfield and the train out to McLean Mill.
About four years ago, he began volunteering with Dewayne Parfitt at the Alberni Valley Bulldogs office, selling tickets, and also began preparing breakfasts for elementary kids twice a week through the Read and Feed program led by Sally Anderson.
“This program is possible thanks to the donations by local businesses,” he said.
Unfortunately, all his volunteer jobs ended last spring due to COVID-19. This past March, John managed to get a position as a volunteer at the COVID-19 immunization clinic, which he continues to do twice a week right now.
He tries to keep himself fit by walking every day and going for a run once a week. Before COVID-19 hit, he enjoyed running in the Times Colonist 10-km run every April in Victoria.
“Also, Penny and I enjoyed travelling and hope to get back to that next year, especially visiting Jen and her partner in England,” said John.
He hopes to get back into his volunteer activities with the Bulldogs and continue his assistance to the Read and Feed breakfast program in the fall.
“I truly want to give back to the community by giving my time as a volunteer,” says John.