Sheila was released from failing health to pass away peacefully at the age of 88.
Predeceased by her husband Dr. Philip Chambers in 2007, she is survived by her daughter Dr. Sarah Smith, her son Robert (Joy) and grand-daughter Vita, as well as a large and loving extended family who knew her as “gong-gong” or “mum.”
Born in Dublin, Ireland, she immigrated with her mother to a country small-holding in England where they survived the lean and often dangerous years of the WWII Blitz. She met the love of her life and future husband at a chaperoned ballroom dance class at age 15, and they were secretly engaged a year later. While completing her nurse’s training at Westminster Hospital in London, and while Philip trained over the river at St. Thomas’ Hospital, they would rendezvous in the middle of Westminster Bridge between busy schedules.
After she was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by a repressive bishop for marrying an Anglican, she never subscribed to any church, but maintained her faith in God while dedicating herself to a life of service. She gave up a promising career as an opera singer to nurse and co-manage 4 geriatric care homes before setting up and running Philip’s medical practice.
After immigration to Nanaimo in 1965 she set the trend by becoming the first doctor’s wife to work outside the home. From the NRGH Admitting Dept. she went on to found the Nanaimo Neurological and Cerebral Palsy Association, which she ran for 7 years out of a small house on Estevan Road on loan from a philanthropist.
She supplemented their limited budget with numerous fund-raisers, which earned her teasing from Mayor Frank Ney when her front-page news coverage exceeded his own. When she passed on the torch to the Kinsmen, her Centre evolved into the current Nanaimo Child Development Centre.
Sheila was always an avid re-user and recycler decades before it became fashionable, believed in thrift, and differentiating wants from needs. She had a fine-honed sense of humour, boundless compassion, humility and remained throughout her life a quiet champion of those in need. She will be greatly missed.
Thanks to Dr. Richard Henderson for his exceptional care, Home and Community Support and the NRGH Palliative Care Unit.
No service at her request. If desired, donations may be made in her memory to Island Crisis Care Society – Samaritan House Expansion Project on-line at: www.moreroomforhope.ca or by calling Violet Hayes, Exec Director, at 778-441-4227 (ext 2).