“I was born and raised in Port Alberni and I’ve lived all my life in this city. It’s a nice place to live,” says Betty Argotow (nee. Taylor), a well-known volunteer in the Alberni Valley.
“My mom and dad were originally from Saskatchewan and moved to the Valley where they raised their family—that is to say, me, my sister and my brother. While here, they started their own business, Taylor’s Flower Shop, on Third Avenue, which they owned for a number of years.
“As a young girl, I used to help them in the store getting the flowers, making flower arrangements, and taking orders,” says Argatow.
“And following my marriage to Walter Argotow in 1962, we decided to buy the shop from my mom (my dad had passed away). So we ran this business for several years years, until we decided to sell it. All in all it was a good experience for all of us in our family.”
In addition, Argotows also had Chinese students home stay in their house for awhile.
In 2000, after the passing of her sister Ilene, Argatow felt motivated to assist others by joining the local branch of the Canadian Cancer Society as a volunteer, and give her time and assistance to those who experience the disease. This volunteer job has kept her busy until today as she is often seen fund raising for the society and making her name known in our community as an advocate who supports those in need.
“My group meets once a month in our office, 3030 Third Ave. Also, I must say, we are connected to the Tour de Rock campaign—a team of police officers who cycles to fundraise for cancer research and help children with cancer.”
Also, as part of her group’s prevention program, the local Cancer Society assists in handing out sunscreen lotion at local events such as the Thunder in the Valley, a three-day event that includes a car show, rally and races, the annual dragonboat regatta, and other major outdoor events.
In addition, the society gives out wigs for cancer patients, courtesy of the local hairdressers. “And, by the way, we welcome new volunteers!”, she states.
“We have a nice group of people working in our office. They are always available to assist cancer patients and provide their families with support and information on the contact numbers. I myself am a cancer survivor,” says the 79-year-old volunteer.
“When I developed the disease some time ago, those people in the office were very supportive and helpful. Everybody helped. I am grateful to them!”
In the 1990s, Betty’s mother, Lila, had moved to Fir Park Village and soon after to Echo Village.
At the same time, Betty decided to become a regular volunteer for the senior homes in several areas of the social and recreation area.
One of the highlights of her volunteer work for the seniors was the annual three day trip on Denman Island. She and other volunteers helped in the kitchen doing the cooking and meal serving during those memorable trips to the Elkhaven Lodge.
“We always had a good time on those excursions,” she says.
“But I was promised an increase in pay on each trip!” Argatow joked.
Nowadays, despite having two types of arthritis, Argotow continues with her volunteer activities and regular interaction in the community. She a;sp takes time to enjoy the weekly floor curling sessions at Glenwood Centre, Sunshine Club trips, and as a florist, she makes flower arrangements and wreaths during the Christmas season.
Argotow, who lost one of her sons in a job-related accident almost two decades ago and later her husband Walter in 2012, finds comfort and pride when talking about her other two children. Her son is a school teacher on the Lower Mainland and her daughter is a volleyball player, coach and referee who lives in Washington State.
“Port Alberni is my home town and I wouldn’t live anywhere else!”