Some people seem to have a way about them that makes you feel better about things, a manner of communicating that says “you’re worth talking to, you have value.”
Even if it’s just a smile or a wave or a vigorous “Hello, Don Descoteau” first thing in the morning.
Sandra Jean Burchill was one of those people. I say ‘was,’ because we heartbreakingly lost this sweetheart of a woman, co-worker and friend recently, far too soon at age 65 to the dreaded Big C.
Sandi was one of the first people I met when I relocated back to Victoria with Black Press in 2001. As the office manager for the paper, or at least someone who I needed to give paperwork to, she made me feel absolutely comfortable in my new surroundings. In those first few weeks, she would be sure to ask me how things were going, or if I needed anything.
I felt pretty special, but I soon realized I wasn’t the only one getting this kind of treatment from Sandi. It was par for the course around the office. I later noticed that whenever there was a committee to be on, or a volunteer activity to be part of representing the company, Sandi was often one of the first to put her hand up.
She was that kind of person, a giving individual for whom a little extra time spent to get the job done right was no big deal. She wasn’t a complainer, not that I ever heard, despite that as a senior staffer who knew pretty much everything about how to run a newspaper, she would often be asked to take on more work.
That commitment to “gettin’ ’er done” was perhaps bred into her back home on Cape Breton Island, but was also part of her commitment to her community of Langford.
As an integral part of hubby Tom’s executive team on the Emergency Support Services team in Langford, she was a mainstay in an organization that does its best to turn chaos into order, which is what Sandi excelled at.
Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett had occasion to work with Sandi a fair bit over the years in her various capacities with ESS, which included co-ordinating training for volunteers. The two were known for giving each other the gears, good-naturedly of course, as only people with mutual respect for each other can do.
“We would kid the pants off of each other,” he says, “and I think she actually welcomed that opportunity to have some fun. Because as we know, life is serious.”
Thinking for a moment about her big smile, her warm hugs as she greeted ESS volunteers as they came in, and her Maritime-inspired sense of humour, Beckett says, “that’s going to be hard to replace.”
Well aware of her dedication to family, volunteerism and community, the chief says Sandi “would not want the ESS function to skip a beat,” in her absence. He acknowledges that her family, who were so dear to her and shared in her passion for volunteering, will miss her presence. Asked how Sandi will be remembered by the greater community, he says “it would be the work ethic, it would be the compassion, not only through ESS, but as a great community representative and ambassador for Langford.”
Celebrating Sandi’s life is something we’d far rather have done on the occasion of her 90th birthday than now. And we lament that her official retirement lasted such a short time.
But we hope her example of living in the moment and making the most of what life throws at you will be followed by those whose lives she touched in a positive way, which were many.
A celebration of Sandi’s life will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Oct. 3) at the Elk Lake Baptist Church, where Sandi was a deacon. You can find it at 5349 Pat Bay Hwy. near the weigh scales.
Don Descoteau is editor of the Goldstream News Gazette.