Rita Driver chats with a friend amidst the racks of hand-me-down goods she carried at West Coasters thrift store in Ucluelet. (Mya Driver photo)

Community mourns West Coast’s kind and generous Rita Driver

“She touched a lot of people’s lives and hearts.”

Rita Driver, a warm West Coast face, environmentalist and friend to most, passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 3 in the comfort of her home.

Driver died of natural causes at the age of 73. According to family members, Driver had high blood pressure, which may have caused a stroke or heart attack.

“It was a shock. We weren’t prepared for it. She will be greatly missed,” said her daughter Mya.

Since her mother’s death, Mya said she has received a flood of Facebook comments and private messages from friends and individuals Driver had helped in the past.

“She touched a lot of people’s lives and hearts,” said Mya.

Driver settled in Tofino in the early 70s. An excerpt written by Mya for ‘The Sound Newspaper’ notes that her mom helped feed and facilitate American draft dodgers who were hiding on the coast.

“She camped on Long Beach “before it was a park” and stayed at the old Wickanninish Inn, which was an artists’ retreat for such notables as Arthur Lismer (a group of Seven member),” reads Mya’s article.

Driver raised her three children, Mya, Ladon, and Nathan, in Tofino.

“She had three biological kids, but she mothered everyone,” said Mya. “She always told kids to chase rainbows. What she meant by that was to follow your dreams.”

A heart banner with well-wishes from loved ones covers the shop door where Driver worked for the last decade. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Driver opened the West Coasters Re-use It thrift shop at the top of Ucluelet’s Main Street in 2012. Mya said her mom always used the policy ‘Carry and Cash’.

“She would always let people take what they need and pay later. That is not common,” said Mya, adding that she never got ripped off. “They always came back because they are so thankful to be trusted.”

Driver nourished a longtime relationship with local First Nations and their culture.

“Her whole life she just kept trying until the end where she finally got respect. Now she has a lot of respect. Most people would have given up trying, you know?” Mya told the Westerly.

“She believed in peace. She believed in peace so much,” said Mya.

A few days after Driver’s sudden passing, family members launched the Go Fund Me page ‘Remembering Rita Driver’ to help wrap up expenses and pay for cremation costs.

There will be a Celebration of Life gathering for Driver on Sunday, March 1 from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Tofino Legion. It will be a potluck style dinner and everyone is welcome to attend.


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