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Phoebe Jensen (Oye Quon Leong)

June 14, 2023


February 2, 1933 - June 14, 2023

In Loving Memory ~

Phoebe left us on June 14, at age 90, to the sound of a small bell rung once by caring Royal Jubilee Hospice staff who gave thanks for the time she had spent with them and wished her well on her journey.

Phoebe was kind, thoughtful, hardworking, generous and always looked for the good in people, qualities that served her well throughout her life. With the ability to talk with anyone and an amazing memory, she loved nothing more than 'a good gab'.

Phoebe returned to Victoria in December 2021, revisiting Chinatown where she spent her childhood years developing many friendships in the community. She had attended St. Ann's Academy, a Catholic school, and it was during this time, in 1939, when Phoebe, her mother Shee, and her brother Jackson, sailed to China to repatriate her father's ashes.

After leaving St. Ann's Phoebe joined the nursing program at Mt. St. Joseph's Hospital, graduating in 1955. In October of that year, at age twenty-three, she stepped from a Port Alberni dock onto the deck of the Uchuck, a supply boat that would deliver her to Tofino, which at that time was only a small fishing and logging village.

It was in Tofino that she began her nursing career, living there for almost seventy years.

Accommodation back then consisted of a nursing residence next to the existing General Hospital, built in 1954. Phoebe had brought with her a small box camera which she used to capture images of her new west coast world. She always wished she had taken more photographs of the native elders and older locals as she had few mementoes of those lifelong friends.

Phoebe reminisced about these early years during a 2020 Tuff City radio interview. She spoke fondly of the primitive incubators and X-Ray machines at the hospital, both of the challenges they presented and of the resourcefulness required to overcome them.

Being the only general hospital on the west coast everyone would pass through its doors sooner or later, even for births and surgeries.

She participated in about a hundred births although after retirement many did not even know of her career as a nurse.

One appendectomy patient, a Danish fisherman, became her husband. Phoebe and Alf Jensen married on December 1, 1956. They shared a pioneering spirit which was a requirement in those early years.

Three children followed, all born in the Tofino hospital: Leonard, Leah and Bernard. An old army Jeep and chains were used to clear trees and stumps in order to build the first family home, and eventually, a large vegetable garden emerged from these efforts. Nature could also provide clams, crabs, fish, ducks and deer if you procured them yourself.

The second family dwelling was a small gingerbread house in the heart of the village, at the site of the present home. As expected there were endless dreary West Coast rains and winds that Phoebe would dutifully try to keep out of the home with carefully applied inner and outer layers of thick plastic sheeting around soggy window frames.

With school-age children, however, colds and the flu were still rampant. As fishing was seasonal, an annual driving trip to Mexico seemed the perfect solution: a great climate combined with a new culture. An adventure began.

There were around forty Mexico trips in all. Travel was their tonic. They both became proficient in Spanish, and the different culture and times spent with their many Mexican friends kept them young at heart.

In the beginning, there were family trips with a grey station wagon and trailer, and then with a big green bus. Later, after the children were older and had embarked on lives of their own, Phoebe and Alf continued their trips, each year covering familiar territory before driving even further south, eventually reaching Belize.

After travelling all these miles in Mexico, a small rancho in the Baja became their annual winter home. They would be visited by Leonard, Leah and John, and Bernard and Janet (before the arrival of Dylan and Jamie) at various times over the years. Finally, when driving was not an option, they travelled by plane.

Their last trip to their beloved sunny Mexico was in 2015.

Phoebe's later years were spent in her garden, making daily trips to the post office and Co-op (especially for newspapers and Lotto), with all purchases faithfully recorded on Co-op number 6. She also spent many years caring for Alf.

She mastered comfort foods, her specialties being pot roasts and Shake and Bake chicken drumsticks. Her fish and chips were incredible with ocean-fresh fish provided by generations of native fishers. These were all shared with friends and neighbours: Arnie, Bev, Donald, Ole, Lois, Brian, Yvonne, Helen, John A., the wood gatherers, and in past years Harold and Chris. Everyone would sit near the wood stove and small round table by the window with the marvelous ocean view.

In February of this year, Phoebe celebrated her 90th birthday in Victoria, her birthplace. There was a sparkle in her eye as she enjoyed the company of friends and family both old and new.

Phoebe's life had come full circle.

Through all the decades and life changes it was Phoebe's special gift to connect with people that made her life so full. Phoebe was a gem with a caring, calm and quiet strength. She will be missed by many.

Thanks and Gratitude

Phoebe enjoyed remarkable health throughout most of her life. The difficulties she faced during her last year were made easier by many healthcare professionals, including those at:

• Royal Jubilee Hospital and Hospice (Dr. K Schneider)

• Victoria General Hospital (Dr. A. Singh)

• BC Cancer Clinic (Dr. J. P. McGhie and Dr. K. Wade)

• James Bay Urgent Care Centre (Dr. D. Wolovitz)

• Tofino Tonquin Clinic (Dr. J. Armstrong)

• Tofino and Victoria Home Care

The family would also like to thank the many Tofino locals for their kindness over the years. We hope all friends can gather to share stories of Phoebe and plan on having a celebration of her life in Tofino possibly in late spring of next year. Details will be posted in the Westerly News once they are known.

The Jensen Family: Leonard, Leah (John) and Bernard's sons Dylan and Jamie

In spirit Alf (1928-2020) and Bernard (1964-2022)

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