May 14, 1932 – February 24, 2023
In loving memory ~
Jean Mary Conway, at the age of 90 years, passed away peacefully on February 24th, 2023, after spending all but her final night in her oceanside home near Point No Point Resort in Shirley, British Columbia
Jean was born in London, England to parents William and Ethel Conway on May 14th, 1932. Jean’s mother died when Jean was just 4 years old. At the age of 7, Jean was one of nearly two million children evacuated from London at the start of World War II during what was called Operation Pied Piper.
It was in a secretarial office on a university campus in London in 1949, that Jean Conway met Jean Whiffin, three years her senior, who would become the love and companion of her life. At Age 15, Jean became interested in signing and her piano teacher encouraged her to join a local operatic society where she was classically trained to become a coloratura soprano
The Jeans, as they became known to their friends, began a life-long relationship that embarked on a daring and epic journey in 1957. With no more than about 50 pounds each, they emigrated from England to Canada. They landed first in Toronto where both Jean’s worked, Conway as a secretary and Whiffin as a librarian, to put themselves through university. Jean Conway continued the pursuit of her singing and successfully auditioned for the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.
In 1965 the Jeans moved west to Victoria. It was on a Sunday drive up West Coast Road sometime later, that the Jeans stopped for tea near Point No Point and were introduced to the eccentric Evelyn Packham. The Jeans were enchanted by the company and the setting and in 1967, agreed to purchase first one acre, and then a second adjoining acre from Miss Packham. It was on these lots, that the Jeans established their home, first a cottage, then a larger pan abode house “next door” where they would spend the next 45 years of their lives together before Jean Whiffin died on April 4th, 2012.
Finding herself alone for the first time in many years, Jean also found the freedom to “come out of the closet”. She found new friends that supported her and in 2013 they arranged a ride in a convertible BMW in the Victoria Pride Parade, travelling behind a banner that read, “I am 80 years old. I just CAME OUT and this is my first PRIDE PARADE.”
In 2014, Jean Conway published her memoir, The Jeans, Partners for Life, which chronicled her life and relationship with her partner of nearly 64 years.
The Jeans were very active long-standing members of the Shirley Community Association, the Shirley Fire Department and the Sooke Lioness.
Jean had always been involved with her community and had a large impact on the lives of the many people she met. She was very generous with her home, her time and herself, sharing freely with those close to her. She built a family and community around her that supported her to be able to stay at home for the last days of her life.
There are too many people to name here but you all know who you and Jean thanks all the friends, neighbours and agencies who supported her at home for the past few months.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Shirley Hall on April 22nd, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, Jean’s memory would be honoured by gifts made to either of her favourite charities, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind Guide Dogs Program or the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
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