Bequest from longtime resident brings Duncan’s Cairnsmore garden to life [photos]

An enthusiastic group gathered at Cairnsmore Place extended care hospital Wednesday, April 29 to celebrate the generosity of a special woman: Melbe Schappert.

A former president and longtime member of the Auxiliary to the Cowichan District Hospital, she was born and died in the facility that sits at the top of what is called Hospital Hill in Duncan, leaving a bequest of $60,000 to the facility that her auxiliary friends have spent on renovating the back garden.

It’s become a real oasis for the residents there, offering lots of places to sit, easy access for everyone and even covered gazebos for showery days.

Cairnsmore Director Gail Kerrone, who cut the ribbon to open the beautiful spot said, "This used to be all grass, and a bit of an old sidewalk with a challenging door coming in and out. Now, it’s really easy to get in an out of and they’ve cemented from the door all the way down, and put in that gazebo and all

these benches, the plants, the raised bed here, the garden shed. They’ve got the lights in the gardens, the timers for the watering. It’s all so beautiful."

The garden club that comes every week to Cairnsmore has promised to maintain the space, too, she said, which ensures it will continue long into the future.

"They’ve created such a transformation. Yesterday one of our people was sitting out here under the gazebo, all wrapped up in a blanket. When I asked if he was warm enough, he said, ‘Oh, gosh, yeah. I love to sit out here for at least an hour a day, getting fresh air.’" Before the ribbon cutting, the Auxiliary president Claire Wessan said the group has worked on the project for a long time and are now delighted to see how "it’s getting to be a really well established garden. It’s just beautiful. I know the staff are happy with it and the residents are just going to love it."

Schappert was worth the naming the garden after, she said. "We wanted it to be a wonderful tribute to her because of her

love of gardens. We’ve placed this plaque here. We want to remember Melbe for her time on this earth and we’re dedicating this garden to her."

Auxiliary member Marg Berikoff knew Schappert personally. "Melbe was one person that was born in Duncan, right here when it was the old King’s Daughters Hospital. She lived on Beech Avenue for 42 years making her home there. I helped clean it out when she went to Wedgwood House and then I helped clean that out when she came back here for her final time," Berikoff said.

"She was a wonderful gardener. Melbe could make absolutely anything grow. And she would go on trips around the world and come back with her purse full of bits and pieces that she would start up. Then she’d get them growing in her yard and she’d share them with the garden club. She was a great gal and a great friend.

"She joined our auxiliary about 1973 or 1974. She was our president and I followed her as president and so we became great friends over the years."