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Remembering Sheila Pither

A tribute and memories honouring her life and work

Sheila Pither – The COSCO Years

Upon retirement Sheila joined COSCO in 1999. She became the treasurer and joined a leadership team that accomplished amazing programs and advocacy for seniors in BC. Although Sheila worked with different teams over the years Sheila has always been the heart and soul of the project. Her leadership and mentoring made COSCO the organization it is today.

Sheila was able to present her ideas and gather people around her to make those ideas a reality. The following is a list of activities that Sheila shaped into the organization that COSCO is today.

COSCO Health and Wellness Institute

The Health and Wellness Institute, the education arm of COSCO, was initiated and developed by Sheila and a small group of seniors in 2007 with a free workshop on Falls Prevention. Today the Institute has over 40 different workshops that are delivered throughout the province by trained volunteers. Many of these workshops were designed by Sheila and updated with her assistance. Workshops include topics of interest to seniors in health, safety, legal, financial, advocacy and technology.

Education Connection

Sheila has also worked with those who plan to interact with seniors in their working career. One intergenerational project created an organization and conference for gerontology students. She has assisted PHD students with their thesis work and she has met with UBC Medical Faculty to discuss their program through a seniors’ lens. Sheila’s work with university students resulted in the students writing many of the workshops for the Institute.

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COSCO Conferences: Informative and Inspiring

Five major COSCO conferences have taken place in the first two decades of this century and Sheila was a main force in the conceptualization, planning and running of them.

2003 – The Romanow Report: Building on Values

In November 2002 Mr. Romanow released a report following a Royal Commission he had chaired, The Future of Health Care in Canada. He attended the COSCO conference and highlighted the major thrust of his report which was that provinces and territories should work together on solving Canada’s health care problems which were primarily because of shortages, both financial and in terms of enough trained personnel.

2005 – Working to Prevent Elder Abuse

June 15 is Elder Abuse Awareness Day and COSCO called together many individuals who described the various forms of abuse, their frequency and the measures that need to be in place to deal with this societal problem. COSCO asked municipal governments to join in a declaration which pledged their support for such measures. More than 100 declarations were received. As a member of the Council to Reduce Elder Abuse COSCO works with many agencies to achieve zero tolerance of abuse.

2008 – Seniors’ Health, Housing and Income in a Global Age-Friendly Community

In 2008 a lot of attention was being paid to defining what an age-friendly community looks like. Environmental factors were considered and the needs of people as they age were identified. This conference was solution oriented. To say that there should be hazard-free sidewalks is true but if it doesn’t lead to action then it is futile. The provincial government gave grants for municipalities to adopt age-friendly goals.

2012 – The Joys and Tears of Living Longer

This conference explored the challenges and opportunities of Canadians’ increased longevity. Speakers from around the world described how other jurisdictions deal with demographic changes and their impact on seniors’ health, housing and income. Workshops gave participants the opportunity to contribute their point of view regarding needs and solutions. Clearly this conference was a natural follow-up to the 2008 conference.

2016 – Aging Well: A Quest for All Generations

This conference encouraged participants to think about the varying needs of people as they age. Speakers focused on physical changes. Others dealt with three large areas which have a huge impact on well-being: health, housing and income. Since its inception in 1950 COSCO has been active in fulfilling its mandate to work towards an optimum aging experience. The report that emerged from this conference mirrored our aspirations and our intentions.

2021 – Living in the 21st Century: A Seniors’ Strategy

This was a virtual conference that continued the tradition of informing and inspiring begun many years ago. Some of the concerns haven’t changed a great deal but others are part of a new world which we wanted to identify and explore, always through the lens of aging with respect and dignity in a society that values growing old as an opportunity and not a burden. Once again, a report was produced on this conference and can be found on COSCO’s website.

COSCO’S Specialized Workshops

Sheila was involved with the design and delivery of specialized workshops, ones that are of pressing need to seniors and their organizations. One example is ‘Stay on the Road’, for seniors over 80 who have to go through the process of drivers’ licence renewal. Sheila worked collaboratively with Road Safety BC to design and implement this workshop, then took it to seniors throughout the province. The other workshop is ‘Passing the Torch’, on succession planning and leadership skills for organizations, since most seniors organizations experience a great deal of turnover. Sheila played a key role in developing and presenting this timely workshop that also has travelled all over the province. There is now version 2 that has been presented virtually.

Health Care

In terms of seniors’ health, Sheila has worked with consulting experts at VGH to develop a mini-workshop on what to expect if a senior must go to a hospital emergency room. As well, she has been involved, often as the lone seniors’ voice, with the ICBC advisory Committee, the Council to Reduce Elder Abuse, Medication Safety (VGH), Care Experience Committee (Providence Health), Cardiac Referral Form Committee, Accessibility and Poverty Reduction Provincial Committees. Sheila was a leading voice in COSCO’s work on Long Term Care standards. Sheila also was asked by a group of Victoria Nuns to give a workshop on advocating for their fellow Sisters who found themselves in Long Term Care. Sheila became president of COSCO in 2020 and did a remarkable job rebuilding the organization, all the while sending letters to government and meeting with government Ministers. Sheila was a tireless worker for the rights of elders. Even as her own health deteriorated, she continued to meet and participate in workshops. She said, “I’ll just work until I die.” And she did just that. Her passing leaves a huge hole in COSCO. We will miss her quiet but iron leadership. We will miss her experience and knowledge. We will miss her ability to synthesize a discussion in a way that helps move us
forward. She did all this with graciousness and respect for everyone involved. It is with great sadness and love that we say goodbye to our good friend and inspirational leader.

By Annette O’Connor and Linda Forsythe

Remarks by Leslie Gaudette, President of COSCO

At the Memorial Service for Sheila Pither. October 4, 2022

Good afternoon. My name is Leslie Gaudette and as current President of the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC (also known as COSCO without the T), Steve has asked me to make some remarks regarding Sheila Pither, in her role at COSCO where she most recently served COSCO as the Past President.

As I reflected, Shelia as Past President was not quite like having a mother-in-law, but her role did serve well to orient me to the responsibilities of my new position and to ensure that the long-standing policies and practices of COSCO were carried on. At the same time, Sheila, while respectful of values and tradition, was a constant source of new ideas to move COSCO forward. She was always willing to meet whether in person or more frequently of late, by Zoom to work out how to take action on the latest issue affecting the well-being of our elder citizens.

We always looked for the twinkle in her eyes as a sign that a new and creative proposal was in the offing. But we all knew that hiding beneath her pleasant yet slightly mischievous manner and keen sense of humour was a steel-trap mind – a mind that produced words that demanded respect whether from high and mighty politicians, or the newest COSCO Delegate.

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Sheila joined COSCO in 1999 and served in almost every role on the Executive over the next 23 years, including Secretary, Treasurer, First Vice-President, President and Conference Co-Chair. Thanks to the history put together by Annette O’Connor and Linda Forsythe, I don’t need to recite everything, but as Sheila did say: “We can’t do everything but we can do something”.

Key initiatives included planning major conferences about every 4 years, starting in 2002, and continuing her passion for education as a retired teacher. In 2007 she began the first COSCO Workshop on Falls Prevention. This has blossomed into the COSCO Seniors Health and Wellness Institute now headed by Barb Mikulec with more than 40 workshops on offer across the province as well as other parts of Canada.

Sheila, in part due to her personal experiences, maintained a keen interest in improving our health care system, which resulted in a remarkable letter personally signed by Health Minister Adrian Dix. This letter reads in part:

Ministry of Health staff worked with Sheila for many years on seniors’ issues and, particularly on addressing elder abuse. She was a strong, compassionate advocate for change. I am sure that the Ministry staff who worked with her join me in expressing my great appreciation for the collaboration and contributions she provided in so many venues over the years.

Sheila was a true mentor not just to me, but to the entire COSCO Board. Her many and varied contributions to the work of COSCO has made us what we are today – recognized as the leading provincial organization for seniors’ advocacy in the province, with national outreach due to the strong support we provide through our national affiliate, the National Pensioners’ Federation.

The remembrances that have come in from many of her colleagues from across the country with words like:

  • Sheila was a force within many forces fighting for the rights and recognition of seniors.
  • She was a PILLAR at COSCO.
  • Sending condolences as she was a tenacious and remarkable woman.
  • Not a meeting went by that her brilliant contributions didn’t plant seeds.
  • (Sheila was) such a gracious, knowledgeable and caring leader.
  • She was a force to be reckoned with.

On a personal note, how I will remember Sheila was when I visited her at her cabin on Gabriola Island in August 2020 to discuss some COSCO business. But then as we moved to a shaded seating area looking over the ocean on this warm sunny day, her son prepared and served for us, a brunch consisting of waffles, slathered with strawberries and whipped cream. Sheila’s favourite meal and just a little piece of heaven on earth.

Rest in Peace Sheila. Your memory will live on and your work will continue. Thank you for a life well-lived.

Tributes to Sheila Pither

Dear Executive, Delegates, Affiliates Associates:
We are all deeply saddened to learn that our beloved Past President, Sheila Pither passed away on Monday September 19. Sheila was a great support and mentor to me since I joined the COSCO Board in 2014, and especially since I was elected COSCO President earlier this year. She was a wellspring of interesting and imaginative ideas and, like Queen Elizabeth II, continued to work right up until the day she died. I will miss her dearly.

We will forward details of the funeral arrangements as they become available.
On behalf of the COSCO Board and membership we extend our condolences to her family and friends during this time of bereavement.

Some tributes to her are included below.

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From COSCO 1st VP Barb Mikulec:

Sheila was an amazing leader, and mentor to many. She was instrumental in the Passing the Torch leadership workshops which encouraged many to build their leadership skills. Sheila and I taught at the same school in Vancouver and have been involved together in the Vancouver Retired Teachers, BCRTA and the R R Smith Memorial Foundation where we both sat on the Board. Her strong advocacy for seniors will be long remembered, Barb

From Past-past President Gudrun Langolf:

Sheila was the brains behind the COSCO workshops and so much more.
I cannot remember a COSCO executive without her…
Her wise counsel and irrepressible humour will be sorely missed.

From Trish McAuliffee, President of the National Pensioners Federation

My day was shattered to get the sad news of Sheila’s passing. I can only imagine she gracefully held the hand of her son and whispered to the good Lord she was ready. She was loved. Her legacy laid for all to hold dear. Now, we mourn.

Sheila was always on the mark to sign up to help or lead in whatever way needed. Not a meeting went by that her brilliant contributions didn’t plant seeds. Her forthright attitude and determination will always remain with me as the mark of great leadership and style. I truly loved her in all Femtor ways possible. Rest well Sheila, you did us all proud and promise to continue our social justice fight with you in our hearts.

On behalf of the entire membership of the National Pensioners Federation we thank you Sheila for your unwavering service. RIP

NPF sends our heartfelt sympathies to her family, colleagues and friends at this difficult time.

Trish McAuliffe (she/her)
President, National Pensioners Federation

Sam Wiese (President of BC FORUM)

Sheila was a force within many forces fighting for the rights and recognition of seniors and her fellow citizens. Much like The Queen, she was one I thought of as never actually dying. She will be missed. I know you knew her well, my condolences. Sam

ATU 1724 representing over 600 HandyDART workers sends its deepest condolences.

In Solidarity,
Mark Beeching
President/ Business Agent
ATU local 1724

Navin Goburdhun, First VP Branch 800 – BCGREA

Dear members of the Cosco Executive and Delegates It is with the deepest of sorrow that we, the members of B.C.G.R.E.A -Branch 800 learnt of the passing of Sheila Pither, our colleague & Past President of COSCO Organization.
On behalf of Branch 800 members I would like to convey our most sincere sympathy & condolences to the COSCO organization and her family. Sheila’s unforeseen departure will be sorely missed & the BIG void she has left behind will be very difficult to fill. She was a PILLAR at COSCO. May her soul Rest In Peace.

From Grace Kramer

This is such sad news, Sheila gave so much of herself to all of us. I found her to be such a gracious, knowledgeable, and caring leader. I will miss her presence and input, she had such clever ways with getting us to see major roadblocks and problems. She gave herself to the end. I deeply respect her and will miss her. Warm regards. Grace.

Sherry Baker, Exec Director (BC CRN)

I was so shocked and devastated to hear about Sheila’s passing. I had lunch with her last Thursday at the White Spot on Broadway. He son drove her and wheeled her in on her walker. She had had a fall but felt that she would be up and about in the next couple of weeks. She had also sent a very powerful testimonial on Wednesday to use in the CREA funding application.

We had a lovely visit – and now she is gone. It is going to take a while to take this in.

Sherry Baker, M.A.
Executive Director
BC Association of Community Response Networks (BC CRN)

Ramona Kaptyn (CARP)

So sorry to hear of Sheila Pither’s passing.
She was a dynamic lady. A force to be reckoned with.
Loved her pyramids.

Ramona Kaptyn, BA Journalism, B.Ed, OCT, CHA
President: C.A.R.P. White Rock/Surrey
Director: C.A.R.P. National – A New Vision of Aging for Canada
Director & Committee Member: Various Community Organizations

Margaret Little, BCRTA

Sheila was a driving force at the BCTF and was always there to help those of us who attended. Her radiant smile and calming ways. While on the BCTF Executive, Sheila was ready and willing to provide information and support.

In later years, I loved to read her messages in the Postcript as they were very entertaining as well as informative.

Sheila’s advocacy for Seniors will be missed. She has left big big shoes to fill. We will continue to share Sheila’s passion for making our world a better place for all.

Margaret Little
Fort St. John, BC

From Agnes Jackman (COSCO Executive Member)

Thank you for sharing this info with me. I am so sorry to hear of your family’s loss. Sheila was considered to be an extra special person by so many people, including me. She will be very much missed!!!There will be so many times that people will catch themselves thinking, “I”ll just ask Sheila. She’ll know!” and then realize sadly that that won’t be possible.

Tazul Ali, Voices of Burnaby Seniors Society (VOBSS)

On behalf of the Voices of Burnaby Seniors Society (VOBSS), we extend our deepest condolences to COSCO and to the family and friends of Sheila Pither.
Sincerely, Tazul Ali.
President| Voices of Burnaby Seniors Society.

Marion Pollack, COSCO Delegate & President, Centre 411.

I am sending you my condolences as she was a tenacious and remarkable woman.

Alice Edge

Sad that such a powerful voice will be missed. Amazing woman to be honored and applauded for her work.


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Sheila Pither & COSCOCOSCO Words of RememberanceTributes to Sheila Pither

Sheila Pither
05-Oct-1932 to 19-Sep-2022

In Loving Memory

Sheila Mary Winnifred Pither (nee Moores) was a mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, traveler and activist. She passed peacefully on September 19, 2022 at her home in Vancouver.

Sheila was born on October 5, 1932 to Arthur and Ann Moores at Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, close to her home town of Big River. Sheila came to Vancouver in 1948 where she graduated from Kitsilano high school in 1950. She married Bill in 1951. They travelled to England, other parts of Europe and Africa on their honeymoon and came home to have and raise a family of 4 boys. Once the youngest was in school, Sheila continued her education, on a part-time basis initially, and obtained a teaching degree from UBC.

Sheila was passionate about, her family and friends, travel, the arts and her work. A woman that was always interested and moving forward.

Sheila lived to assist others through her work. She was an activist for high quality education, labour rights and seniors’ rights. Her 5 trips to Namibia to advise and assist teachers fighting for better working conditions allowed her to combine two of her passions. She held leading positions in several organizations throughout her life. Sometimes these positions were paid and sometimes they were not. These efforts caused her to receive, the Fergusson Award and Honorary Life Membership from the BC Teachers Federation, Honorary Life Membership to the Retired Teachers Association, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organization of BC – Life Member and Woman of Wisdom and Passion – Vancouver Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma along with special recognition from the Jewish Seniors Alliance for her work with Council of Senior Citizens’ Organization. Always pushing for more care and equality in this world. Integrity with a soft heart but a tough fighter for her values. A leader that will be dearly missed.

Sheila travelled to China and she took numerous trips to her favorite destinations of Hawaii, the UK, and Alaska. The typical Christmas gift to the family was a week long trip to “Where are we going to go this year”. Sometimes a cruise to Alaska or Mexico, sometimes a flight to Newfoundland, the southern states or elsewhere, sometimes a BC road trip. More recently, with pandemic travel restrictions and other factors, Sheila was spending a lot of time at her Gabriola Island home. She loved to breathe the ocean air, watch “the mood of” the ocean and the humming birds at the feeder.

She was a long time subscriber to the Vancouver Symphony, Vancouver Opera and the Arts Club Theatre.

Sheila is survived by her sons Mike, Steve, Greg and Jeff, Jeff’s wife Norma and their 2 children Mathew and Dylan. She was predeceased by her parents and elder siblings, Arthur and Freda.

This link will take you to a BC Labour Heritage Centre 2019 interview with Sheila .

Funeral and graveside services followed by a reception will be held at Valley View Cemetery on October 4, 2022 beginning at 2:00 PM. 14644 72 Ave. Surrey, BC.