Jean Leahy is being fondly remembered for her endless energy to make her community and the region she lived in a better place to live.
Leahy, a long-time advocate in the Peace region, died August 26 at the age of 84.
“She was a tremendous advocate for the environment, for agriculture, for women’s issues,” said friend and Save Our Northern Seniors Society vice-president Margaret Little. “She was active in our community and always stood up for what she believed in.”
Even as Leahy faced her medical issues, though, Little says she was still there for others, that was just her way. “She always rose above any issues that happened to her. She was always looking out for other people, always thought of others before herself.”
Little met with Leahy just hours before her passing to discuss plans for the upcoming annual general meeting for Save Our Northern Seniors – there was no indication anything was wrong.
Little believes her friend will be remembered for her passion.
“I think of her tenacity, her spirit of adventure, her ‘stick-to-it-ness’ and her desire to make our community the best community it could possibly be.”
That sentiment is shared by many, including another close friend, Ruth Veiner, who worked with Leahy advocating for farmers through the National Farmers Union. A former national womens president and vice-president, Leahy was active in the group for close to 25 years.
In Veiner’s words, “She not only had a tremendous impact on the agricultural community, but I think Jean had an impact on everyone she met. She was a strong woman.”
Leahy was probably best known in lobbying for seniors, helping to form the group, Save Our Northern Seniors Society, and garnering the attention of many in the health care community, including Northern Health.
“Jean was a passionate and an effective advocate for health care, particularly seniors health,” said CEO Cathy Ulrich.
“Jean’s dedication to improving her community and the lives of those around her was always clear to Northern Health.”
Leahy sat on the Peace River Regional District board from 1994 to 1996. Electoral director Karen Goodings recalls their time together, referring to her as a champion of the causes she believed in.
“(She was) always smiling...and always paying attention to what issues were affecting people,” Goodings said.
Fort St. John mayor Lori Ackerman characterized Leahy as “a pillar in the community.” In a Facebook post, Ackerman wrote “Jean will be truly missed. She was a wonderful force to be reckoned with and a true advocate... we would all do well to keep a bit of Jean tucked in our hearts and memories.”
MP Bob Zimmer says he’ll remember Jean for how genuine she was. “It wasn’t about flash or doing something for social media or for the photo op, she really cared about seniors.”
Zimmer adds, “You knew when she was meeting with you, the concerns were real.”
However, Margaret Little believes Leahy’s character can best be described from her a story Jean told her years ago.
“Jean was just two pounds when she was born and spent her first week inside a shoe box on the oven door of her parent’s farm.”
Little closes by saying, “it shows you what kind of a person she became.”