Doris Rowledge passed away peacefully on Thursday May 5, 2022, with her family by her side. Over her final few weeks, Doris was able to visit in person and on video calls with all her family members and she felt deeply loved and truly at peace.
Doris was born in Stavely, Alberta on December 12, 1930, to Bert and Lola Johnson. She lived on her family’s farm in Happy Valley until she was 9, riding a horse to school every day with her older brother Don. In 1939, she and her family moved to Beaver Creek in support of the family’s business, Johnson Brothers Sawmills. Doris lived at the logging camp, completing grades 4 to 8, before transferring to Fort Macleod for high school, boarding there with the Hart family. Starting when she was 16, Doris was the lead singer for the 10-member big band, “Doris Johnson and the Macleod Imperials”. After graduating from high school in 1948, she hitchhiked into Lethbridge with a lifelong friend to sign up for the Galt School of Nursing. After three years of intense learning and dedicated work at the Galt Hospital, she earned her R.N. in 1951. She then moved to Nanaimo, BC for her first professional nursing position. In Nanaimo, she met Russel Rowledge, and after a happy courtship, the two were married in Lethbridge on October 11, 1952.
Returning to Southern Alberta
In late December 1952, Doris returned to Lethbridge to care for her father who had suffered a heart attack. Sadly, his death in January 1953 meant she was never able to tell him that she was pregnant with her first child. For the rest of her life, Doris held the memory of her Dad dear to her heart. Doris and Russel decided to stay to help care for her mother, Lola, and to join in managing the family lumber and logging business. Moving to Heath Creek Camp in 1953, Doris not only played a role as part-owner of the business, but together with sister-in-law Shirley Johnson served as the primary health professionals for the remote sawmill business that included a lumber mill and multiple logging camps. She and sister Shirley Fritz ran the general store, and Doris was principal of the one room school. Over the next 10 years while at Heath Creek Camp Doris and Russel welcomed their three children, Lorinda, Darrel, and Sheralyn. Doris relished the close-knit relationships of family and friends living, working, and playing together. The tiny community thrived and drew people from far and wide to visit, shop, or participate in social events.
Nursing Career, Raising Her Family, & Fun with Friends
In 1963, after Johnson Brothers had moved their main mill to Cowley, Doris and her family moved to Pincher Creek. Doris joined the nursing staff at Pincher Creek Hospital. Throughout the 60’s & 70’s, Doris was working full-time in her nursing career and raising her family, yet found time to sew skating costumes, support her children’s events, and enjoy a full social life. Over 20 years, she served in various nursing and surgical roles, as Head Nurse, and as Director of Nursing. Doris was widely recognized for her skill, compassionate bedside manner, and empowering leadership. She helped design Pincher’s new hospital, but the toll of back injuries, two major back surgeries, and chronic back pain forced her retirement before it opened. Throughout it all, Doris thoroughly enjoyed golfing, travelling to Hawaii, Europe, and the southern and western US and a wide variety of socializing and partying with decades-long friends. Beginning in the late 1980’s, she devoted extraordinary amounts of time to her grandchildren, attending their soccer, baseball, hockey, rock climbing, debate, ballet, volleyball, and swimming, travelling with them throughout Canada, the US, and Japan, and sharing in their graduations and family events. After turning 80, she joined her grandchildren in touring Europe, ziplining through treetops in the Costa Rican jungle, and cruising the Caribbean – not to mention countless trips to her children’s homes in Calgary, Vancouver, and Seattle.
A Remarkable Woman
Doris will forever be remembered for a number of special qualities.
was central to Doris’ being. To her, this meant Russel and her children and their partners, her brothers and sister, nieces, nephews, and cousins, and also extended to friends, children of friends, and numerous others who became “adopted” family over the years. Many a time “Auntie Dode” was called upon for her advice, support, or tangible problem solving. She was never too busy or too tired to respond to people in need. This core sense of the importance of family has been inherited by her children and grandchildren and embraced by many others whose lives she touched.
Living in community and helping others
was the warp and weft of Doris’ life. She cared about and built relationships with everyone in her community and tirelessly supported hundreds of individuals and dozens of local causes throughout the years.
was a fundamental commitment for Doris. She dedicated decades of her life to different local services and organizations. She was an original member of the Pincher Creek Lioness which later became the Pincher–Cowley Roaring Lions, serving for decades and contributing to many different causes. The CNIB was one of her passions and she organized and implemented the first “Walk in the Dark”, raising funds to provide support for the blind. Over the years as a Lion, she was awarded numerous humanitarian and lifetime service awards. She and Russel also served on the United Church board for a decade. Through the Lions Club, Doris became very involved with and was Cofounder of the Pincher Care Bears Society, working extensively with Isabelle Lank and then later with Rhea Terre and Pat Bratz.
Advocating for healthcare and social justice
was a critical priority for Doris that called on her rare combination of grace, decency, and bottomless dedication to people and causes beyond herself. Despite a lifelong aversion to conflict, her interest in addressing the healthcare need came first, and Doris steeled the courage to publicly challenge schemes to cut or privatize healthcare. She and Carol Ferguson led numerous efforts to protect and advocate for local high-quality healthcare. Where those efforts failed, she threw herself into fixes like Care Bears to fill important healthcare needs.
may be the most defining characteristic of who Doris was. Her caring empathy for all, passionate interest in those she loved and cared for, ability to listen with heart and affirm those around her, and non-judgmental acceptance of others touched all who knew her. Doris consistently brought a supportive, loving light to the path others were walking. In the end, those who knew Doris admired her strength of character, her working tirelessly despite chronic pain, her listening with deep empathy, her being the “go-to” person for hundreds of families and friends who were working through any of a wide range of personal challenges, her dedication and sense of responsibility, and her selflessness in always putting others first.
Doris is survived by Russel, her loving husband of nearly 70 years, her three beloved children: Lorinda Rowledge (Russell Barton), Darrel Rowledge (Laura- Keeth Rowledge), and Sheralyn Rowledge-Toscani (Ray Toscani). She was present for the birth and remained fully present and connected in the lives of all six of her grandchildren who she adored: Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge (Tomasz Sakrejda), Taisha Barton-Rowledge, Tyler Toscani (Nikkie Leung), Joen Rowledge (Maria), Logan Barton-Rowledge, and Taryn Toscani. Doris cherished her relationships with her sister Shirley Fritz (Gus) and brothers Earl (Marion) and Don (Shirley, Audrey). She was also bonded to dozens of nieces, nephews, grand– nieces and nephews, and cousins from Vancouver Island to Prince Edward Island, with whom she shared unique, strong relationships. She was predeceased by her parents Bert and Lola, brother Don, brother-in-law Gus, and sisters-in-law Shirley and Audrey.
Celebration of Life
The family will be holding a Celebration of Life at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, September 2, 2022, at the Vertical Church in Pincher Creek and invites everyone to join them in honoring a truly special woman.
Doris was the co-founder of the Pincher Care Bears Society (our local medical travel support organization), and the family knows she would appreciate support for this important cause at: Pincher Care Bears Society, PO Box 44, Pincher Creek, AB, T0K 1W0