After 43 years in the community, Brenda and Dennis Horwood are saying goodbye to Kitimat and beginning the next part of their life in the Vancouver-area.
Both initially from Victoria, B.C., they moved up to Kitimat when Dennis was offered a teaching job.
“We sort of thought, you know, we’ll go for a couple of years, get some experience, and then leave,” Dennis said. “So that didn’t happen, we’ve been here for over 40 years.”
They ended up really liking the community, because of the easy walking access and the large number of services and sports available, especially once they started having children.
“It’s a great place to raise a family,” Brenda said. “Once you’re anchored in the community…you tend to not go very far.”
However, the children are all grown up now and living in the Lower Mainland, and Dennis and Brenda decided that the time had come to move, to be closer to their kids and grandkids.
“It’s going to be tough to leave Kitimat, because it’s been a good part of our life,” Brenda said. “Developing great friendships with people and connections, but you know, we need to move on before we can’t move — literally!”
Dennis taught at Nechako Elementary School for over 30 years, originally as a science teacher, and then moving around between subjects and classes throughout the years.
Brenda trained as a nurse and worked for several years until the kids started coming along. Once they were all a bit older, she went to work at Nechako Elementary, as well, as a nurse, dealing with children’s special medical needs.
She worked there for 12 years, until both she and Dennis retired in 2009.
After retirement, Brenda bought a heavy-duty machine to look after sail, upholstery, and other issues with their own sailboat, but ended up doing a lot more once other people found out about her skills.
“People found out I could fix their rips and tears, and whatever, so it ended up getting into a business,” she said. “It’s a good retirement job.”
“You become a fisherman’s friend right away if you can fix their boat,” Dennis said, laughing.
Brenda worked out of their basement and backyard throughout her retirement, and has only recently started to stop, because while Brenda enjoyed the work, it often interrupted their own plans and was starting to get too stressful.
“My hands are starting to complain, my eyes too,” Brenda said.
“And your husband!” Dennis added.
Brenda learned to sew when she was young, but honed her skills over the years as a mother.
“I just had to fix things and alter things, as a mother…you know, make costumes and such for your kids. So, I just sort of basically taught myself,” Brenda said. “But I also had a mentor in Terrace, which was a big help.”
Brenda did jobs for the Fire Department, Search and Rescue teams, and her first major job was with Rio Tinto. Most of the time, it was tarps and boat sails.
“People think we’re really rich, because we have all these boats that come into our driveway!” Dennis said.
“A different boat maybe every month!” Brenda added.
But over the years, Brenda worked on everything from golf carts, to hats, to motorcycle seats, and one time a Rolls-Royce.
“That was scary because the material came all the way from England!” Brenda said.
“I didn’t even know there was a Rolls Royce in town!” Dennis said.
Dennis, along with teaching over the years, is very invested in the naturalist community.
“He’s known as the bird man here in town,” Brenda said.
Dennis has written several books over the years, including a guidebook of Haida Gwaii, with a fellow naturalist in Smithers, and a book on the birds of Kitimat, which was sponsored by Kitimat Museum and Archives. As well, he’s written many magazine and newspaper articles, including for the Northern Sentinel.
Because of their knowledge and love of nature, the Horwoods started a Naturalist Club here, which now has 30-plus members and tries to find new and creative ways to help members get the most out of nature.
“We used to offer boat trips down the channel, and we bring in a few specialists — like a mushroom guy came in one year,” Dennis said. “Different things like that. Bird walks. We try to diversify it.”
Along with the Naturalist Club, Dennis and Brenda were leaders of the youth group at the United Church for 20 years. They met with the youth weekly, as well as taking them skiing, camping, boating, and on other outdoor adventures.
“We did that through the church and met all kinds of great kids, and we still have contact with many of them,” Brenda said.
“We’ve always been church people,” Dennis said.
“We met through the Church, actually, in Victoria, so we just carried on that commitment to help raise up kids,” Brenda added. “Just realizing there’s a big need for somebody other than parents to help guide kids, you know? It takes a community to raise children.”
The Horwoods were heavily involved with Cross Country Ski Club in Kitimat too, as their son was a competitive cross country skier and Brenda was part of the executive team. She was also an executive with the swim team, as their daughter was a competitive swimmer.
“Between the ski club and the church and swim club, you know, we were just pulled in all directions of work,” Brenda said. “But it was good. You gotta be involved with your kids. That’s really important.”
Dennis and Brenda are sad to leave Kitimat, but know that the community will always be a part of them, through the great friends and memories they made throughout the years.
“We still will have that bond to Kitimat,” Brenda said. “So we’ll be back. I’m sure.”