‘Thank you, Doris, and bless you. I’ll see you later’

Of them all, Doris Benjamin, a member of the pioneering Cobble Hill Dougan clan, has been my most stalwart editorial aide.

DORIS BENJAMIN, 1939-2016

For those of you who may think that I’ve written the 2,000-odd Chronicles that have appeared in the Citizen over the past 19 years, alone and unaided, I must confess — yes, for the most part.

But not all of them by any means; in fact, I’ve had some outstanding help in my research from friends, fellow members of the various historical groups to which I belong, and from readers.

Of them all, Doris Benjamin, a member of the pioneering Cobble Hill Dougan clan, has been my most stalwart editorial aide. We met, perhaps 25 years ago, as members of the Cowichan Historical Society where she volunteered, first as a researcher, then, for more than 20 years, as a “greeter” in the gift shop on Thursday afternoons. If you ever visited the museum on a Thursday, it was Doris who welcomed you and answered your questions and made you glad you went. She thrived on this kind of inter-personal networking; so much so that, as her health became more of an issue and gradually deprived her of many of her other social outlets, she came to look upon Thursday as the highlight of her week.

It showed in the way she dealt with museum visitors, some of whom became her friends. It broke her heart when she could no longer serve the museum in this capacity.

Although a Dougan, she was born in San Bernardino, Calif. on Jan. 27, 1939, but she and older sister Anne spent most of their growing-up years in nearby Loma Linda. Their father died when Doris was just two. While their mother worked as a nurse, grandmother Annie Dougan “gave up her home and family on the Island” to care for them.

Doris graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif. in 1961 then moved to Napa to start an interior design business. In 1966 she began teaching fourth grade in Napa then moved to Portland, Ore. in the early ’70s to continue teaching. By the mid or late ‘70s she was teaching eighth grade (or perhaps junior high; there’s some confusion in the family here) in Battle Creek, Mich.

It was about 1992 that she moved to Maple Bay to care for her mother and she taught for three more years before retiring after a total of 29 years of teaching. It’s a measure of Doris that she remained in contact with some of her students all through the years and never lost interest in them as they grew up, married, had children, then grandchildren. Once in Duncan she joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church (she wrote the bulletin to the end), the Garden Club and the Cowichan Historical and Heritage societies.

She continued to indulge her lifelong passions for sewing and Cowichan history, the latter, perhaps, a genetic hand-me-down from having been born into one of the Valley’s most historic families.

I met Doris, as noted, at the historical society. We became not just friends but co-workers in researching, writing and publishing a succession of brochures for the annual Cowichan Heritage House Tours, and numerous other projects. Her most significant contribution to my own writing program was the help — hundreds of hours and her own gas — in going to Nanaimo weekly to access the microfilmed copies of the Nanaimo Free Press. I paid for the photocopying but Doris covered all other expenses herself for over a year and I’ve been forever grateful as it would have been all but impossible for me to have written, for 10 years, a weekly Nanaimo history column without her invaluable assistance.

Some years ago Doris self-published a history of the Dougan family cemetery in Cobble Hill and, more recently, was working on a re-write of Nathan and Bob Dougan’s classic Cowichan My Valley. Highly regarded and highly collectible, it’s been out of print for 30 years or more. If ever revised and reissued, it would be our best Cowichan Valley history book bar none, based as it is upon Nathan Dougan’s firsthand memories of growing up in the Valley and his acquaintanceship with many of the pioneers of whom he wrote.

Well, that task remains undone. Doris Benjamin passed away suddenly last week. Her friends, those who were blessed to know the real Doris of the big and warm heart, will miss her. I certainly will. I consider myself privileged to have been her friend and I consider myself privileged to be able to use my forum in the Citizen to honour her.

Thank you again, Doris, and bless you. I’ll see you later.

www.twpaterson.com

Just Posted

Jared Popma recently streamed a live concert from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre. (Ashley Daniel Foot photo)
21-year-old jazz artist talks favourite tunes and joys of music theory

Jared Popma recently streamed a concert from the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Vetch cover crop beginning to flower. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Vetch and crimson clover to the rescue of soil fertility

I add dry organic fertilizer as plants use up what is in the soil.

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson column: A shift in perspective can sometimes change everything

Have you even been forced to wake up at 5:30 on a Saturday

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole have rejected staff’s recommendation to limit the use of fireworks to Halloween. (File photo)
North Cowichan rejects limiting fireworks to Halloween

Municipality decides staff recommendation would be unpopular

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read