Dorscie Paterson

Catching Up With Dorscie


One of my duties as the editor of our Langley Retired Teachers’ newsletter is to interview our honourary members when they reach the age of 85.  However, I had been told about one of our members, Dorscie Paterson, who is long past that age, and is 101.  I was looking forward to meeting with her and finding out how things had changed since the ‘60s when Dorscie was teaching hairdressing courses at VanTech.


When I phoned Dorscie, she told me that she had a pretty busy schedule, and ‘now’ would be a good time to visit her.  I said I’d be there in half an hour.  I had prepared myself to be dazzled by her spiritedness, and I wasn’t disappointed.


I began by asking Dorscie how she got into teaching in the first place.  She explained that several members of her family were teachers, and, in the days that she was growing up, there weren’t too many options for women to have a career, other than becoming a teacher or a nurse.    She has ten cousins who all became nurses.  When her children were young, she was involved in the local PTA.  When a position teaching hairdressing at Vancouver Technical School became available, her children encouraged her to apply, saying, “Mom, you could do that!”  She taught for ten years and was very proud of the accomplishments of her students, whom she referred to as ‘my girls’.  She not only taught her students hairdressing skills, using a hands-on method of teaching, but she also taught them some ‘life skills’ that would become invaluable to them in the future.  These included exposing them to real life situations, such as field trips to small debts court, and the local RCMP station.  They had to work out scenarios where they might be sued, and how they were going to handle the situation.  Trips to the psych ward at Essendale (now Riverview) gave the students an insight into the devastation caused by drugs and alcohol.


In reflecting back on her teaching days, she said that it was very rewarding.  After all, she said, ‘I must have been some kind of a teacher when former students care enough to come to my one hundredth birthday!’  She remembers that she had several different principals during her teaching career and they would always ask her if they could bring people in to watch her teach.  ‘They were always parading people through my classroom!’


As for the challenges during her teaching career, she really found that teaching grade eleven and twelve boys home economics difficult.  She always tried to follow the ‘praise loudly, discipline softly’ philosophy.  She found that leaning over to the one misbehaving and whispering, “I’ll see you after class,” worked much better than putting him on the spot in front of his peers.


As for education today, she said that she is disappointed that students have lost the art of handwriting, and are relying so much on technology in the schools, these days.


A big part of Dorscie’s life has been in community service.  She has received much recognition for her work.  In 1983, Dorscie was a founding volunteer at the Langley hospice.  Today Dorscie still has a regular shift at the hospice twice a month, as well as serving on the board of both the Langley Hospice Society and Langley Hospice Foundation, the fundraising arm of the organization.  She is especially proud of Jeanine McCarthy, a charge nurse at Simpson’s, who spearheaded the hospice idea. In 2007 she received the B.C. Hospice Palliative Care Association Share Lee Volunteer Award.  Dorscie was also awarded the Governor General Caring Canadian award for 50 years of community service.  She received the Women of Excellence award from the International Women’s Day committee, for her volunteer work, as well as several awards from the Lions Club and the Hospice Society.


Dorscie has slowed down somewhat, now that she is a centenarian.  She did mention to me, that she had a bit of a sore shoulder, at the time.  When I asked her what had happened, she explained that she had climbed up on a step stool to reach her hanging basket, which needed water, and didn’t realized that it was as heavy as it was.  She lost her balance and fell, hitting her shoulder on the corner of the picnic table.  She explained that, after a week of being sore, she finally went to the doctor, who told her that it was still a bit out of its socket!  However, I’m sure that she’ll be feeling as good as new in no time at all, and will be busy with her work at the Langley Hospice, and other community events.

 For more on Dorscie, click here

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