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In Our Valley: Dorothy Sarrell

Always willing to get down and dirty
Dorothy Sarrell picking chives at the old food share garden in Mountainview Square. (photo supplied)

Willing to get down and dirty, Dorothy Sarrell is a garden lover that never shy’s away from a job, who’s always helping the community where she can.

Born in Kispiox Valley just outside of Hazelton BC, Dorothy was raised with two brothers and two sisters.

Dorothy always spent her days out in the bush with her father who worked for a logging company just outside the Terrace area.

“I use to help him out with his projects and different things like that. Mom was never too impressed, she use to try and call me to come in and help make lemon pies but I would ignore her calls until my dad would tell me that I should go or she’ll come pull me back inside by my ear. […] I still pleased both of my parents though.”

Spending her high school years in Terrace, Dorothy moved to Kitimat with her husband in 1966.

“I didn’t know a single person besides my husband when I moved here; it was a little awkward at first, but I got to meet a lot of people through my husband,” Sarrell said.

After being in Kitimat for almost six years, Dorothy started accumulating her own social group when she got a job at BC Forests as a tree planter in 1972. After BC Forests stopped their tree planting program, Dorothy was hired as a contractor for a tree planting company that was based in Vancouver but worked out of Kitimat.

“I loved tree planting, it was a very hard job and you had to be physically fit, […] we had to use a big pick and you would have to swing it from over your back, dig a hole, then plant the trees.”

“It also didn’t matter what the weather was like out there, we had to put up with all the different factors.”

Though camps were set up for the tree planters to hang their hats, Dorothy never needed to stay overnight in the bush because she lived in town. So after a long day’s planting, Dorothy had the ‘luxury’ to go home and wash up before the next morning.

Having a great appreciation for the outdoors, Dorothy always took pride in her job as a tree planter.

“At the end of the day it made you feel good because you felt like you accomplished something for the valley and the environment; I can also drive up the logging roads and look back at everything and see all the trees I’ve planted.”

Taking a break from tree planting, Dorothy got a job as a tree spacer for Eurocan logging. She and her crew would go up logging roads with big chainsaws and cut down trees that were considered hazardous.

“I had a crew of 16 people, men and women, and we went up the logging roads and would knock down trees that weren’t three metres apart.”

After a few years, Dorothy got pulled back into tree planting when Eurocan was looking for experienced tree planters.

“I loved getting back into tree planting because I got work with a good group of people and there were quite a few ladies from the valley who were planting as well.”

Finishing her career as a tree planter, Dorothy was still dedicated to the dirt and got a job with the District of Kitimat in 1989. Her job was to plant and set up flower beds for the city.

Retiring from the District in 2009, Dorothy began volunteering her time for the Food Share Program, helping with the vegetation gardens around town.

“I like to volunteer my time because I’m helping someone else. Plus I always felt good about doing work that other people will eventually enjoy.”

Dorothy indicates the community in Kitimat is one of a kind as she believes the people in town are easy to get along with and have been nothing but friendly to her. She’s also very grateful for the appreciation she receives when people see her outside, rain or shine, working on the community gardens.

“It’s amazing how many people stop to talk to you and tell you you’re doing such a good job and they appreciate what you’re doing.”

Emphasizing her love for the town, Dorothy shut down all the naysayers that talk poorly about the community and highlighted how everything isn’t perfect in Kitimat but the people hold a special place in her heart.

“Kitimat has been really good to me since I’ve moved here, I know so many people here now which makes a big difference.”

Dorothy still spends her spare time volunteering for the Food Share Program. With no plan on stopping anytime soon, you can catch her elbow-deep at the Cornerstone gardens planting vegetation and upkeeping the gardens.

READ MORE: In Our Valley - Tracy Owen-Best