Kay Chapman leaves lasting legacy

Cathie Roy/Associate Publisher / Staff writer
November 9, 2012 01:00 AM

Longtime Gibsons' supporter and philanthropist, Katherine (Kay) Chapman, pictured with her son Don, has died in her 96th year.

Long-time Gibsons' supporter and philanthropist, Katherine (Kay) Chapman has died in her 96th year.

Chapman had ties to the Sunshine Coast that stretched back to the Great Depression. The family has pictures of their matriarch dancing in what's now the Heritage Playhouse in the late '30s.

During her lifetime Chapman never sought the limelight. For the most part any gifts were given anonymously on the Sunshine Coast. Many scholarships were awarded from the Chapman Foundation at Elphinstone Secondary School and former programs for at-risk kids were funded in part by the Chapmans. Music in the Landing was kick-started by the Chapmans.

Born Jan. 8, 1917, Chapman was a 1937 alumni of the University of B.C.

She and her husband Lloyd, who predeceased her in 2004, were benefactors to many UBC programs. One of their initiatives, renovations of UBC's main library heritage core, was renamed the Chapman Learning Commons in their honour.

In 2000, they established the Chapman Endowment to support student community service learning opportunities that are run by the UBC Community Learning Initiative.

In a tribute to Kay, UBC said the endowment was established because the Chapmans "wanted to support a project that was forward thinking, would make a real difference in people's lives and promoted quality and excellence in students."

Simon Fraser University also received a large donation from the family.

According to the Chap-mans' youngest son, Don, literacy and the pursuit of peace were his mother's driving forces all her life. Combined with a positive attitude that always saw the best in people, Kay was well known for supporting causes that strived for equality in race and gender.

The Chapmans, who lost their Canadian citizenship when orthodontist Lloyd moved to the United States in the '50s to a new job, also were generous to their adopted country. Over 14,000 children in Washington state got dentistry care courtesy of the Chapmans.

Other areas of Canada that benefitted from the Chapmans include the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children and the University of New Brunswick.

Kay was a tiny woman who didn't put much stock in outward shows of wealth. It was important to her to help people.

She never forgot the tragedies of the First World War and seeing families torn apart by the loss of fathers and brothers. She also witnessed racial discrimination first hand in Montreal at the Windsor Hotel when she saw how African-Canadians were treated by the other clientele and staff.

Don credits his mother with his fervour for the Lost Canadians cause. He learned early that it wasn't enough to complain about something - the goal was to change the perceived wrong.

"I think she was very proud of the [Lost Canadians] thing. We did something to change our respective countries," he said.

Kay's interest in the world remained right up to the end. She was still active in thoughts on politics up to last year. When she moved to the Vancouver facility that was her final home, she made it a point to learn all the other residents' names and something about each of them. And her interest in learning never waned either. She recently took a creative writing lesson.

"There was nothing fancy about her. She loved life and never talked against anyone. She always had a smile. To my mom, it was about the people," Don said.

Kay is survived by three children and their families. Her final resting place will be on the Sunshine Coast.


© Coast Reporter

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