Island Neighbours first graced the pages of the Bowen Island Undercurrent in February, 1991 when Lois Meyers Carter inherited Laura Cochrane’s long-running Island View. But Lois had her own view as to what she wanted to offer her readers, highlighted in the opening paragraph of her column: A weekly gathering of items about island people, activities and events. Her writing was breezy, but often in-depth. Compelling, but never political. Committed to being the community archivist, Lois chronicled not only the lives and loves of Bowen Islanders, she also wove the threads of island history into her stories.
Ross Carter was the love of Lois’s life and there were frequent references in her column to “the old redhead.” Although that red hair had long since turned grey, there was no mistaking the reference to the man who first brought her to Bowen. The island had been a part of Ross’s family’s life from the time they first built their cottage in Scarborough in the 1940s. Lois, a lover of history, embraced what she gleaned of Bowen’s storied past. She became an active member of the Bowen Island Historians, and for many years contributed her knowledge and wealth of historical exploration to the Undercurrent’s Annual Heritage Edition.
Newspaper columnists would agree that ‘editing’ — which usually means ‘cutting copy’ — is the bane of all writers. When I was occasionally forced to cut Lois’s Neighbours column, she never failed, in her following week’s column, to make reference to the ‘gremlins’ who were responsible for those mysterious disappearances. Having been on both ends of the blue pencil, I understood her commitment to her readers and her deep concern that no one should be forgotten or left out, no person or event left uncelebrated.
Lois was a perfectionist. Her earliest columns arrived on my desk, delivered in person on Monday mornings, carefully hand-written, with only the occasional tiny white sticker covering an altered word. Eventually she graduated to typing the copy and in the last few years of her writing she composed Island Neighbours on a computer. That was a celebration.
But Elaine Loree and I missed those Monday morning visits when Lois would drop off her column. It was our beginning-of-the-week time to share stories and catch up on island news. There was no internet. And there was much to talk about. Bowen politics were feisty then, and at times, all-consuming. The furor of election cycles. Letters to the editors during those frenetic days often filled two — sometimes three — pages of the paper. The Undercurrent became the unofficial meeting-place for anyone with an opinion.
And there were many.
On those mornings our office was filled with laughter and with tears. Sometimes dismay over a perceived community outrage. Sadness for the lost ones. There were tales told out of school that never saw the pages of the newspaper. Many of our favourite memories and island stories from that time never went beyond those office walls.
Lois’s legacy lies in her deep commitment to her readers, her love and sharing of island history and — of course — her devotion to ‘the old redhead.’ Her dream was to give as many people as possible their ‘day in the sun’ and to honour the many-faceted lives of islanders. Her Island Chronicles addition, celebrating birthdays, was always read with an eagle eye. She sometimes ended her columns with a joke of the week.
Lois wrote her last ‘official’ Island Neighbours column for the Undercurrent on September 28, 2007. She began writing again in 2009 and wrote occasionally until 2013. Twenty three years. Over 900 columns. Thousands of words.
No small feat.
These words today are my own offering of heartfelt thanks to Lois for her years of writing, and sharing so much of Bowen’s history, and for her many contributions to our island story. But most of all I am grateful for the time she so willingly and joyfully gave, both to me and to the Undercurrent, and her caring and unwavering dedication to her beloved community of island neighbours.