Edwina Nearhood: Jean Leahy knew how to roll up her sleeves and get things done


The community has said goodbye to a wonderful woman, Jean Leahy. I first met Jean in the late 1980s. I was boarding in town to attend high school and was staying with her mother, Ada Bell. Mrs. Bell took me under her wing and made sure that I was a part of her family. 

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I met Jean on many occasions. At a young and impressionable age, I had a strong woman role model who showed me how to get things done. Mrs. Bell kept me up to date with everything that Jean was involved with. I was impressed at her voice and participation. She gave me the vision and drive toward leadership.

As the word began to spread on the passing of a local icon, a quote from Jean came through: “It gives me peace of mind to know that my contribution will be there to protect the things I worked so hard to achieve….and to make sure that my grandchildren grow up on a better world.”

This is so true when you look at all her accomplishments for her family, friends, and the public good. To say goodbey to a life well lived is very hard for many of the lives she has touched – but I can say it is with a smile and a nod and a life well lived. 

I was so impressed that she could sit in a role as National Farmers Union Women’s President, leading the push for progressive social legislation. According to Jean, International Women’s Year in 1975 was a watershed year for the women of NFU when she began her first of four years at the helm. She was instrumental in devising fairer matrimonial property legislation.

The words passionate, dedicated, and strong advocate come to mind with Jean’s many accomplishments. She was a second generation local who knew how to roll up her sleeves and get things done. It is the women who have this get-it-done attitude that pave the way for the next generation of women to be able to do the same. I will take her quote and share it throughout my world as an inspiration, not just for women but for all people. Everything she became involved in just made sense – to correct injustices, weakness in policy, advocate for seniors, and so much more.

Even as she entered the “golden years,” Jean’s presence and determination continued to have big impact on the community. In reflection, looking back at the path I could see was founded in strong roots of family, community, and drive to do better. From the National Farmers Union, PRRD electoral director, to a pillar of the Save Our Northern Seniors organization; her strong voice, attention to detail and ability to make a difference has not gone unnoticed. I know I am very proud and inspired by her accomplishments. 

This quote by Henry Ford has been at the forefront of my mind for several weeks now: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right”

Jean was a woman who thought she could, so she did. Thank you, Jean, for your dedication and hard work. Thank you for your contributions and hard work. Thank you for making the world a better place. 

In memory of Jean Leahy, expressions of sympathy can be made to Save Our Northern Seniors.

Edwina Nearhood is a lifelong resident of Fort St. John. Her 30-year experience in the appraisal industry offers a unique lens on the challenges associated with the economic forces impacting real estate and the community.

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