Remembering John Nyce


John with his good friend Shannon at Pearson’s 60th anniversary party in 2012

John Nyce was our friend and neighbour. He moved into Pearson when he was 16 years old. He passed away on Feb 27th, just 5 days after his 55th birthday. He is missed by many of us.

John was a caring fellow. He always asked you “How are you?” He had a speech impediment, so some people had trouble understanding him at first, but he was patient and would repeat himself until you understood. One thing we all remember about John is his laughter – he loved joking around and was quick to laugh. Another thing we remember is that he loved drinking Coca-Cola.


Teenage John sharing a laugh with a Pearson staff member.

Nowadays, people of such a young age don’t move to Pearson. But in the 1970s, things were different. People remember John as a mischievous youngster with a great sense of humour, and that he would hide when it came time for him to go to ‘school’, like many children do.

John used to travel on his own up to Oakridge mall, about 16 blocks from Pearson. There was some concern at some point that he wasn’t safe doing that, and some people starting worrying him about going there. So John started going to Metrotown mall, which is about 60 blocks away, in the next City over (Burnaby), and involves taking public transit. He wasn’t afraid of adventure, that’s for sure!

John with Soccer Medal

John proudly showing one of his many soccer medals.

Something else that John was passionate about was Soccer. He had a specialized attachment on his wheelchair that enabled him to play Powerchair Football, also known as Power Soccer. Here John had one of his many friend circles – Powerchair Football Canada in memory of him as well. He was their longest running athlete!

John Nyce’s memorial was on Saturday April 2nd. The family came to Pearson. Some live in Vancouver, but many of them traveled a long distance to come share this time with us. John and his family are from the the Nisga’a nation – their village is Gitwinksihlkw, and they are the “People of the Lizards.” It is about 100 km north of Terrace. Staff and residents really appreciated the family coming such a long way, so we could remember John together at his home of the last 39 years.

John’s memorial was attended by many residents and staff. The family presented GPC a handmade wooden plaque thanking staff for the care they gave John for the 39 years he lived here. The plaque will be located on Ward 6 for now, John’s local neighbourhood, and it will likely go into the Activity Wing at a later time for all to view.

John Nyce plaque

John Nyce plaque

Being part of the Pearson Community means dealing with a higher rate of death than the outside community. Some people who move here are in a more fragile health state, and it’s usually not surprising when someone with complex serious health issues passes away. But Pearson is also home to long term residents – and when they pass away it has a significant impact on the staff and other residents. We are glad to have known John Nyce and will remember him fondly.

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Garden Club season begins

Garden Club is now in it’s 7th full year of happening, and it just keeps getting better and better. Seeds were started indoors at the end of March, and with this warm spring we’re having, we’re transplanting tomatoes already. As well, our strawberry patch is in full production. And nothing tastes so sweet as the first strawberry of the year!


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Breakfast for Dinner

It’s probably the most popular meal we make at Community Kitchen here at Pearson.

Maybe it’s because a good breakfast is hard to deliver in the way that food normally arrives from the institutional food service provider – trucked from the kitchen on a hospital-style tray. Maybe it’s because fresh-off-the-griddle pancakes and fresh scrambled eggs are a distant memory to many of the people who’ve lived here for decades.

Maybe it’s just because a full fledged breakfast is awesome.

The menu included:

  • Fruit smoothie made simply with apples and assorted frozen fruit and enough water to blend. This includes raspberries that we froze at the height of our summer harvest from the residents’ gardens here at Pearson (Garden Club, a Farmers on 57th program)
  • Hash browns – grated the last of 2015’s potatoes harvested from the Pearson gardens
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Bacon and sausages
  • Pancakes (flour plus eggs plus milk plus butter)
  • Berry compote (also frozen berries from the summer)
  • Real maple syrup. Know what’s in table ‘syrup’? Mostly Corn Syrup. Plus gum, colouring, flavouring and preservatives.
  • Fresh-baked cinnamon buns and plain rolls, prepared in advance by our incredible volunteer Chris.

One of the best parts about Community Kitchen is the socializing that naturally occurs over a meal. Volunteers grab some food and sit down when they have time. We talk about what we could make at the next dinner, even though it is a month away.

As well, residents get the rare opportunity to have seconds (and thirds) of something they really like. Something we try to encourage is for residents to choose what they want.

We were so busy cooking and sharing food that I forgot to take any photos. I leave it up to your imagination…

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Giant Pearson Pumpkin

It all started with a tiny plant donated by a couple who grow award-winning giant pumpkins. The Garden Club accepted this donation, and planted it in an area that didn’t have much going on. How big could it get, we wondered?

The answer is 242 pounds.


The progress:

We had the pumpkin on display until Halloween, and ran a guess-the-weight contest.

After was time to carve it up and eat it!

IMG_0313 IMG_0317 IMG_0319We managed to distribute most of the pumpkin around Pearson to staff and visitors. We cooked up a whole bunch for Community Kitchen too. This pumpkin fed a lot of people!

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Federal Candidates visit Resident Council

voteGeorge Pearson Centre is in a new riding for the 2015 Federal Election.

Growth in the City of Vancouver has meant that the City of Vancouver has a new electoral district, increasing its total from five to six. Pearson is within the new riding called Vancouver Granville. It is made of up of parts of the previously existing ridings, which are currently held by different parties.

Monday October 19th is Voting Day. Here at Pearson, there will be a mobile Polling Station. If a resident is in bed that day, Elections Canada personnel will carry the ballot box from room to room for voting.

For the newly created Vancouver Granville riding, there are four candidates for MP. We invited all four to attend our monthly Resident Council meeting to talk to residents about their position on certain issues. Three candidates responded that they would attend. The conservative candidate Erinn Broshko did not reply to our repeated invitations. The following candidates did attend:

Mira Oreck (NDP) was a Broadbent Institute director who also worked on Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s campaigns.

Jody Wilson-Raybould (Liberal) a former regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and former crown prosecutor.

Michael Barkusky (Green) is a CGA and is on the board of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics and other organizations, and is passionate about wilderness conservation.

It meant a lot to Pearson residents to have these three candidates take the time to come and speak to them. Residents face various challenges in attending, speaking, seeing and hearing at public community gatherings, so it really made a difference to have the candidates come to Resident Council.

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Hansu’s Story: Life in Residential Care

Hansu lives at George Pearson Centre. She’s not an elderly senior, as is often assumed by many people when they think of long term care facilities. She is a vibrant adult, living her life like all of us – and her home is in a care facility with medical bells and equipment.

She moves around via a motorized wheelchair. She has some use of her hands, but not full use. Her mind is active – she enjoys many activities. You can learn more about what she enjoys and her experience living at Pearson in the video below.

The video was created by Hansu’s niece Kaija and her friend Emily. For the audio, Kaija interviewed Hansu over the phone. Then Kaija and her friend put together a video with Hansu’s voice mingling with animation. It’s both dreamy and grounded – an insight into Hansu’s life and perspective.

HANSU SOLO from kprsii on Vimeo.

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Therapeutic Pearson Gardens

George Pearson Centre sits on an unusually large site of sprawling lawn, considering the price of real estate in the City of Vancouver. And that will soon change, as land owner Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) recently sold most of the site to developer Onni.

Back in 2008 that underutilized land and the hospital-like nature of life in a care facility inspired a few determined people to bring therapeutic gardening to the residents of Pearson. We managed to convince the then-manager of Pearson to allow the building of community gardens and a small urban farm on the site. It is likely that the close working relationship CARMA had with the manager was a critical part to this being accomplished, as many garden proposals prior had been rejected. VCH allowed us to use the land, but was otherwise uninvolved in the development of the gardens. At least they didn’t stop us.

And so began Farmers on 57th. The support of the DABC (then the BCCPD) and a grant from Vancity in January 2009 enabled the initial build. Friends and family members contributed their sweat equity. The snow that fell in March that year didn’t help, as a few of us struggled to roll up wet sod!

Building the Market Garden at GPC

Preparing land for the Market Garden at GPC in March 2009


Friends & Family help in the building of the Pearson Therapeutic Gardens

Friends & Family help build the Pearson Therapeutic Gardens in 2009

The project has grown in scope and strength since then, adding a CSA program, programs that reach out to isolated community members, links to the Community Kitchen and more. The GPC administration now funds the residents’ weekly gardening program. The Recreation dept staff are important to bringing Pearson residents and volunteers together to garden, make flower bouquets and share knowledge. And once the harvesting starts, we juice the fresh fruits and veggies – sadly fresh produce is rarely part of the meals served at this facility.

Gardening is therapeutic for so many reasons. Many residents here have limited physical abilities to garden, which makes the experiences of smells and the visual stimulation of bright colours all the more impactful.

the smell of fresh lavender is therapeutic

Simply being outdoors amid the plants cannot be understated as incredibly important to health and well-being. See a recent Georgia Straight article which speaks to this. They interviewed the wonderful Aimée Taylor, who helped coordinate the Pearson Garden program in the earlier years but has since moved on to a full time job, spreading her knowledge throughout the community.

Living in a hospital-like setting isn’t a normal human habitat. Plants are, in contrast, normal. The gardens provide a balance to the call bells, medical equipment and procedures. Growing plants is beautifully unpredictable and chaotic in contrast to the routines of living in a care facility. The first time I’ve seen some people smile has been in the gardens, with an armful of smelly lemon balm or a clutch of colourful sweet peas. The therapeutic power of plants on humans continues to inspire me.

Plant Gazing

Finding Balance in the Gardens




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Thousand Origami Cranes (Senbazuru 千羽鶴): Good Wishes for all at Pearson

There’s a story about a young Japanese girl who had leukemia. She was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped about 1 mile from her.

This girl started folding origami cranes as per the ancient Japanese story that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish. The young girl died when she was about 12 years old. Her friends and family helped finish her goal of 1000 cranes.

Romilda Ang told this story at the Pearson Resident Council as she presented her one thousand origami paper cranes held together by strings. Ro is the manager at George Pearson Centre. She starting making the cranes when she was on holidays, then her friends and family helped her reach 1000. On the underside of the crane wings are about 500 names – including residents and staff at Pearson. Residents were impressed by the effort and touched by the meaning.

In Japan, the crane is a mystical creature, like a dragon. This crane is said to live 1000 years, which is why there are so many cranes.  By folding 1000 origami cranes it is said that you may receive good luck, long life or recovery from illness or injury. Having 1000 cranes hanging is certainly considered good luck. And no doubt – it takes a lot of care and effort to create such a hanging piece. And such effort is inspirational!

1000 Origami Cranes




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Part of Pearson Land to be SOLD to developer Onni Group

It is a slow process, but then something big happens. VCH is selling most of the Pearson-Dogwood lands to a developer.

Back in September 2014, Vancouver Coastal Health posted a Request for Proposals regarding the Pearson Dogwood Redevelopment. While they had been looking at doing the development themselves, they now looked to developers to see what offers they might get. According to VCH, they received ten proposals – and one offer won over the health authority.

The majority of the land will be sold to the Onni Group of Companies, a Vancouver-based privately owned developer with offices throughout North America. According to VCH, the proceeds from the sale of the Pearson Dogwood Lands will be reinvested into health care infrastructure, including on the site.

In a release dated February 13, 2015, VCH says the Onni Group will purchase two parcels of the Pearson Dogwood lands totalling 22.18 acres – about 87% of the total 25.4-acre land space that currently includes Pearson and Dogwood. The plan is for Onni to develop the lands into a mix of residential, commercial and retail, with green spaces.

VCH will keep 1.3 hectares in the middle (3.2 acres), which is almost 13% of the land it now owns. On this land they plan to build a 150-bed facility to replace Dogwood Lodge. Dogwood is currently located just east of Pearson, on 57th Ave. It is home to seniors, many with dementia and special health needs. Other plans for the VCH-retained lands include building a Community Health Centre, a YMCA and a new therapeutic pool to replace the Stan Stronge Pool.

In a recent news release, VCH states that 114 housing units with supports for those with disabilities will also be included, but dispersed throughout the 25.4 acre site. Since there are currently 114 residents living at Pearson, it likely refers to Pearson residents.

What’s next? VCH and Onni plan to submit a rezoning application to the City of Vancouver in late 2015. The rest remains to be seen.

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the imPearsonators tackle Movember

Tomorrow is the big day! The imPearsonators will begin cultivating their lip gardens on Movember 1st. Pearson staff, residents and friends of George Pearson Centre have once again joined the fight to improve men’s health through the Movember campaign.

You can find the imPearsonators by following the link or by using the get involved or donate tabs in the Movember website.

We ask you to support Movember this year and help raise money and awareness of men’s health issues. Thank you to all the people who have donated to the imPearsonator campaign so far.

Please get to the Movember site and:

learn about men’s health issues,
sign up as a Mobro or Mosista, or
donate to the imPearsonators

We look forward to the crop of made-in-Movember mustaches. It is a great opportunity to make a difference in men’s health.

This year’s campaign was again organized by John, the singing carpenter. Thanks John!

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