Rooted in Generosity: Lynne’s Legacy Giving Story

A community changed by tragedy and empowered by social conscience. Memories of 1960s Wales. A beloved aunt’s generosity. These inspire a local couple to name the Victoria Hospitals Foundation in their wills.

Today, we share the story of Lynne and John, members of your community and healthcare supporters. And the story behind their legacy giving.

Lynne Thomas

As a child in rural Wales, Lynne Thomas witnessed incredible generosity. This recently inspired her and her husband John to make a gift to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation in their wills.

A Welsh Childhood

Lynne Thomas, 71, grew up in a small farming community in the South Wales coal mining valleys near Merthyr Tydfil.  She recalls the bright, rich green hills and the tenor-bass voices of the men’s choirs.

In October 1966, disaster struck the nearby village of Aberfan. Above the village, a pile of coal waste on a mountain slope collapsed. It engulfed the local school and 19 other buildings, killing 116 children and 28 adults.

“When you see miners crying and pawing at the slurry and debris, getting nowhere, it’s harrowing,” Lynne says. “A local minister lost his son. Still, he visited every household that lost a child to commiserate with them. You don’t forget those moments.”

Lynne’s two aunts, May and Olga Davis, enrolled in a London training hospital for nurses. Upon graduation, they returned to south Wales to work at Merthyr Tydfil Hospital.

“It was a hard struggle in Wales: there was poverty and lack of opportunity,” says Lynne. “But my Aunts didn’t give a thought to staying in London. Their first priority was to get home and help the people of the valleys.”

When Aunt May died, she left £1 million to their alma mater, the training hospital for nurses. “Aunt May always wanted to help and I knew her thinking:  let’s help the nurses with their training and expenses.”

A New Start in Canada

At 25, Lynne left Wales for Merritt, British Columbia, at the invitation of her aunt and uncle, Richard and Valerie Shackleton.

When Lynne moved to Vancouver, she started her working career at the Vancouver Museum, finally becoming the Registrar for the Museum. This job entailed the care, handling, security, and documentation of all the artifacts. She also shipped incoming and outgoing travelling exhibitions nationally and internationally.

In 1982, she met the man who would become her husband, John Henderson. They met in a Vancouver amateur theatre group where John was one of the actors and Lynne worked on the lighting for the plays.

John graduated from McGill University in October of 1968 with a Master of Science degree and then enrolled in the Meteorological Program at McGill. John worked as a meteorologist for Environment Canada at Dorval International Airport in Montreal and at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. After he moved to Vancouver, John started his own business with a colleague from McGill.

John retired in the 1990s. Or so he thought. An old friend, a doctor at St. Paul’s Hospital, invited him to apply for a job at the BC Renal Agency. He said no three times before saying yes and then worked for nine years in the St. Paul’s Hospital Provincial Renal Program.

Planning for the Future

After John retired again in 2005, Lynne and John left Vancouver for Victoria.

Recently, in 2017, Lynne had hip replacement surgery at Royal Jubilee Hospital. “I’d never been in hospital before,” she admitted. “My surgeon Dr. Stephen Burnett was terrific. He’s the bee’s knees.” Soon she was back to swimming 60 laps a day. ”The care I received was extraordinary. I am so thankful.”

Lynne remembers when she and John first talked about their legacy.

“We didn’t have a will,” recalls Lynne. So they discussed the future of their estates, their core values and what has inspired them in their lives. “We knew we wanted to support charities in healthcare and also wanted to support the arts.”

“I said—why don’t we give to our local hospitals through the Victoria Hospitals Foundation?” Lynne says, recalling the decision. “It’s an effective way to make a difference in people’s lives—when they’re at their most vulnerable.”

For Lynne, it all comes back to the green hills of her childhood. To a generosity that binds a tight-knit village. Her motivation to give is about family and place. It’s also a legacy that will help everyone on Vancouver Island, no matter their circumstances.

“I owe my deep sense of social conscience from the Welsh valleys and my Aunt May,” says Lynne. “Not everyone is wealthy and not everyone has the opportunities we have. Aunt May was my role model and inspired me to give back to my community through our local hospitals.”

Your Role in the Future

Interested in making a gift to our local hospitals in your estate? Donating to our hospitals in your will, including a gift of annuities or real estate, is one of the greatest acts of generosity you can make. Estate gifts have a powerful impact on our community, benefiting the lives of thousands of people. No great wealth is required to give, just the willingness to plan.

If you want more information, you or your financial adviser can talk to our Manager of Leadership & Legacy Giving Beth Cairns by email or by phone at 250-519-1750. Or, visit our website to learn more.