Daughter, wife, mother, friend, actor, director, visionary. Mary Huggins touched the lives of thousands during her remarkable 95 years. Most notably, she left a beautiful legacy of three children, seven grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren – each one, blessed by her passion, and her love.
Mary and Douglas – along with a few dedicated others – founded the Powerhouse Theatre. The pursuit of excellence in theatre led Mary to act in over 25 productions, and direct some 20 more. She also became the organization’s artistic director for several years, where she was responsible for developing the season playbill and procuring guest directors, costume designers, and others to raise the bar even higher.
George was one of the eight founding members of the Powerhouse Theatre. This proud WWII Navy Vet loved the theatre, and could be found in the carpentry shop at the Theatre most Sundays from Sept to March. He was a skilled carpenter and problem solver, with a “Let’s get it done” attitude. He had a hand in building the Powerhouse Theatre and innumerable sets during his time at the Powerhouse, which totalled over 30 years. He was wonderful story teller and didn’t need a stage to entertain, just required an eager ear and a willing soul. George loved a good story whether watching it on stage or whether he and his friends were “spinning a yarn” stories were told and audiences delighted. He was an excellent dancer, and frequently tore up the dance floor at Powerhouse Openings or Closings night party. In fact he was last seen dancing on the Powerhouse stage at the 50th Anniversary aged 87, entertaining old friends. George’s optimistic, mischievous sense of humour has been built into the very fabric of the Powerhouse Theatre, and so it lives on.
Nancy was not only a founding member of the Powerhouse Theatre but was an active member for almost 50 years. She had a profound sense of community and being inclusive was second nature to her in a way that fostered an environment of devotion to the craft of theatre, which is what the Powerhouse Theatre and its members are all about. She embraced new comers, welcoming them with open arms, she had an uncanny way of making them feel they belonged, were accepted, and were supported in their creative endeavours. Over the years the Powerhouse family, was a place where people found their calling, grew as artists, and had the freedom to find their role within this unique community. Nancy’s devotion to the Powerhouse earned her the distinction of “Lifetime Member” and it was a indeed a lifetime commitment for her as an active member from 1963 until she passed away in 2012. During that time she explored many different roles and responsibilities and worked tirelessly as a: Producer, seamstress in the Costume department, and Props Master, Box Office, FOH and every once in awhile she stepped out from behind the curtain and took on an acting role. She loved the theatre so completely that her dedication and enthusiasm rubbed off on those around her, and all the time and energy working on the productions became a joy. In short, you could depend on Nancy to take on a challenge and execute it with enthusiasm and generosity. Her kind and loving spirit permeates the Powerhouse Theatre, and is a legacy for which she will be remembered.
Peter & Brenda Jemmeson
Peter died in September 2019, and Brenda in Sept. 2020. They were very active at Powerhouse during the 70’s and the 80’s. They both had positions on the Board, Brenda as President and Peter as Treasurer. Peter could always be found swinging a hammer at work parties and Brenda, a gifted actress, with a great gift for comedy appeared in many Powerhouse productions. Some years later they moved to the island where they became involved with Echo Players in Qualicum Beach. When they eventually retired they moved back to Vernon and always attended all the productions at the Powerhouse.
James ‘Jim’ Brown
June 21, 1938 – September 7, 2020
Jim was certainly a character – unique, eccentric, delightful and entirely unforgettable. Live theatre was important throughout his life – he taught, performed, stage-managed and directed countless plays, and made many friends and no small impact at the Powerhouse Theatre along the way. His teaching career varied widely, including high school drama, a vice-principal ship and kindergarten.
Since joining Powerhouse in 1971 David has enjoyed about 30 acting & directing roles, and supervised 2 theatre expansions/renovations. He won the ’96 Eric Hamber trophy for service to theatre in B.C. David, was a life member of Powerhouse and he devoted the last 44 years of his life to making this building a better place. He gave us his wisdom, his humour and experience, and he left us with policies to guide us when we get lost. Because of his love and dedication to the Powerhouse, his energy and spirit will live on. David died in a fall from his sailboat, another of his passions, on May 21 2015
Dennis Eric Learey, at the age of 90, peacefully passed away in his sleep in the early morning of May 16, 2015. Dennis was born in London, England and at the age of 16 joined the Royal Air Force and served in Europe.
During WWII Dennis and Gwen’s families became close and right after the war in 1948 they were married. For their honeymoon they moved to Canada and settled in Vernon, BC. Dennis was devoted to his wife and together had a family of two sons Stephen and Eric.
Dennis and Gwen together became some of the founding members of the Vernon Little Theatre which later became known as the Powerhouse Theatre. At that time, Dennis did work at several jobs, including many years at Okanagan Electric, but his true passion was acting. Over the years he performed in over 60 plays and took on a wide range of roles from comedy to Shakespeare.
He won numerous awards for his acting, with the crowning achievement being when he was voted the Best Actor in Canada, in 1969 at the Dominion Drama Festival.
Dennis will always be lovingly remembered by his family—Stephen Learey and Shelly with their children Parker and Connor; and Matthew (Eric) Learey with Kristine and their children Denthew, Meta, Gwendolin, Eritin and Timeran.
For memorial donations and flowers Dennis wishes you to please donate to the Powerhouse Theatre.
John & Mary Sherwood
John came to Canada with his wife Mary in 1980. He and Mary joined the Powerhouse Theatre soon after their arrival. While Mary helped out sewing costumes, working on set decor, house and box office when Powerhouse sold its own tickets, John helped with set construction and with the re-modelling of the upper dressing room. He was Treasurer of TAC for 19 years. John died on April 3rd, 2010, Mary in December 6 2005.
A member since 1974, her acting credits include: You Can’t Take it With You (2007), Black Comedy (1974), Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1975), A day in the Death of Joe Egg (1976), Aladdin (1976), Last Wednesday (1978), Blithe Spirit (1978), No Sex Please, We’re British (1981), Babes in the Magic Wood (1983). Penny directed Chinamen (1982) and has many technical credits also. Penny died on Dec 29th, 2009.
Alan Charter Smith
Alan acted, did set construction, helped with lighting and sound and was on the Board of Directors as Treasurer. He, just once got on stage as the lead in The Mousetrap. He enjoyed his time at the Powerhouse.
At 8:30 am on Thursday October 20, 2022, Lorraine died in the Vernon BC home she made, shared and loved with her husband Dave. The bright autumn sun was working its way over the hills, surrounded by the richness of her art and passion, her favourite music playing on the iPod next to her bed, and the pine trees standing outside her studio window dappling morning light against the house. She passed in the most serene, tranquil, calm and beautiful way, taking her final peace-filled breaths with Dave at her side, her hand in his.
In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, Christine expressed her artistic talents in myriad ways – as a visual artist, as an accomplished calligrapher, as a talented clothing designer and seamstress, in choral singing, in the theatre and as a story-teller. She was a performer, and she also directed and produced plays at local theatre groups in Vernon and on the North Shore for many years. Christine will be remembered as considerate, generous, insightful, and a mentor to many. She had an engaging personality and wonderful sense of humour. She lit up any room she entered, and she never missed an opportunity to get up and dance. Hers was a life well lived.
At 8:30 am on Thursday October 20, 2022, Lorraine died in the Vernon BC home she made, shared and loved with her husband Dave. The bright autumn sun was working its way over the hills, surrounded by the richness of her art and passion, her favourite music playing on the iPod next to her bed, and the pine trees standing outside her studio window dappling morning light against the house. She passed in the most serene, tranquil, calm and beautiful way, taking her final peace-filled breaths with Dave at her side, her hand in his. Lorraine lay in repose for two days at home with Dave, her grandchildren Iris, Caspar, June and Raidon, stepdaughters Amie and Tressa, and their partners Bryan and Matt sitting beside her with loving attention, colouring books, knitting, conversation, tears, laughter, and silence. On Saturday October 22 Lorraine’s remains were lovingly wrapped in a blue blanket by Dave and the wonderful funeral home staff, and escorted by the family from the house to the funeral home van.
Lorraine’s Cancer Journey
Lorraine was diagnosed with uterine cancer in December 2020, underwent surgery in January 2021, and until late summer of this year, embraced chemotherapy and radiation treatments with positivity, focus and endurance – Dave ever-at her side, close friends supporting them both. Then, on September 29 Lorraine suffered a severe pulmonary embolism that resulted in palliative treatments shifting to end of life care. Lorraine received incredible care by the Triage, ICU and 6th Floor nursing teams at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
On October 13, Lorraine returned home with Dave as her principal caregiver – a role he welcomed, knowing it would be a wonderfully loving thing to be able to care for her every minute of each day and night until the time came for her passing. Lorraine’s sewing room became their bedroom, a sanctuary of colour, light, familiarity, every corner full of the most excellent creations for reminiscing and reflecting on a life lived with beauty. Lorraine died seven days after coming home – five days after her 67th birthday, four days after her mother’s 100th, ten days after her eldest grandson’s 16th, and nine days before her beloved Dave’s 75th. In his birthday card to his wife, Dave wrote, “I love you deeply, I’m so glad our life paths converged, we’ve been beside each other for 43 years and loving it!”.
In the days in the ICU and then at home before she passed, some of Lorraine’s family were able to travel from coastal BC and Alberta’s plains to spend time with her. Amie, Tressa, sisters-in-law, Michelle and Naomi, and brother-in-law Doug had their last, bright conversations with Lorraine while in hospital. At one point Lorraine quipped to Tressa, Amie and Dave about cancer’s undiscriminating unfairness, “eat the French fries and cream puffs!”. Lorraine’s brother, Greg, and her mother, Doris, made a careful journey from Vancouver to Vernon, spending important time together and celebrating the Mother-Daughter birthdays. Doris and Lorraine and Greg had two days of many chats, hugs, and time spent very close with loving, intentional goodbyes. Amie and Tressa, and their families, came as soon as Dave called with the news that Lorraine passed and had meaningful time to be with their dad, of reconnection, and tender farewell to their stepmom.
Lorraine’s Life and Art
Lorraine was born in Vancouver BC on Saturday October 15, 1955
Lorraine’s sewing career began when she was a preschooler, making outfits for her Troll dolls (drawing on her mom’s sewing talents and guidance) and in high school she proudly told her parents that she skipped PE classes to work on costumes for the Drama Department’s productions! In her graduating year Lorraine won a garment sewing contest and was awarded a high end sewing machine; from there, her gifts with fabric and her passion for making fabulous things flourished. Lorraine took clothing design and textile courses at Douglas College (Vancouver), moved to Montreal and worked in the city’s thriving garment industry for a company called ‘Adorable Lingerie’, and was drawn back to BC after getting a call from a high school friend starting a new clothing company: Far West Mountain Wear Co. In 1979 Lorraine became Far West’s designer and pattern maker, and sample sewer for the company’s line of outdoor wear. In 1980, Lorraine stepped out on her own and opened “Lorraine’s Couture Studio and Fibre Art Studio”, initially working out of her one bedroom apartment and getting off to a strong start.
Lorraine met her ‘to be’ husband Dave through the Powerhouse Theatre, and they married at Trinity United Church in Vernon, in 1981. As Lorraine stepped into family life with Dave, Tressa and Amie, “Lorraine’s Couture and Fibre Art Studio” moved to a large, sunny room in a family-sized house that they purchased.
Over the years Lorraine was a wonderful friend to so many who shared her love of sewing and quilting, learning, the United Church, and a good party. She loved the Theatre and partnering with Dave (W.L.Seaton High School Drama Teacher) in every aspect of his shows, making a formidable production duo. Lorraine’s intuitive sense of flow and organization made her a respected stage manager and usher in community and professional productions alike. In their theatre life together, Lorraine was first and foremost the designer and builder of costumes for dozens of theatrical productions, from small intimate settings, to full scale professional shows. Notably for the Powerhouse Theatre: I am a Camera, Trojan Women, Taming of the Shrew, Little Shop of Horrors, Sveva and virtually all the major productions at W.L. Seaton Secondary School over a 27 year period of time.
Lorraine was gifted in colour theory, tailoring and liturgical art. She was passionate about fashion history and the ways people around the world used fibre and colour. Lorraine enjoyed challenging her eye for colour, taking colour theory courses (in which she got top marks, always) and embarking on complex colour-related projects. When it came to tailoring, pattern-making, and quilting techniques, Lorraine also excelled. She shared her knowledge as a skilled and supportive educator at the community college, in public schools and private classes, as well as offering workshops for quilting guilds and United Church worship committees around BC.
Throughout her career, Lorraine created hundreds one-of-a-kind wedding dresses, formal gowns, and special occasion suits as well as offering alteration services and sewing every-day wear too. Quilting became a passion over the years and she won countless awards in quilt, fashion and art shows – locally and nationally. Lorraine’s love for, and sensitivity to the nuisances of colour underscored her entire life’s journey and art-making. Her mastery of colour is evident in the copious quilts she created. Her fabric art legacy is as broad and rich and deep as the full spectrum of Light.
In their life together Lorraine and Dave camped through much of Canada and the western US. At a later date in honour of Lorraine and their adventures in their custom designed and built “CAMPER TRUCK”. Dave will make what he lovingly calls “a home run camping trip” to spread Lorraine’s ashes in the waters at the most Westerly, Northerly, Southerly and Easterly points of their Canadian travels: Rennell Sound (Haida Gwaii), Watson Lake (BC/Yukon border), Clark’s Harbour (Nova Scotia) and Cape Spear (Newfoundland)
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