Volunteer Bio – Wendy Matus

I was born across the pond in England on the South Coast at a small town called Brighton. My father was a Canadian soldier so at the tail end of WW11 my mother and I set sail for Canada on the Isle De France. This was a Red Cross Ship so it was bringing the wounded soldiers.

Unlike many war brides, we did not land at Halifax, I believe we landed in New York and travelled by train to Port Arthur Ontario which is now called Thunder Bay. I think I was about 3 or 4 when this occurred. My brother and sister were both born in Ontario. When I was about 8 my father left to seek work and he ended up getting a job in Vancouver. This left my mother to sell up in Ontario and move with three kids to BC. The youngest being about 6 months old.

We stayed in Vancouver for several years and I attended Beaconsfield Elementary School. After moving every few years to different parts of the lower mainland our last move brought us to Mission (Steelhead) where my mother ran the local Post Office and gas station. I attended Mission High School from grade 8 until grade 11 when I left to get married to a Mission fellow Bob Matus. He worked in the local mills and drove a sawdust truck. We had 4 children 2 boys and 2 girls. My husband got injured in the mill and decided to take a course in refrigeration. This led to him fixing them for friends and neighbours which eventually evolved into repairing all major appliances. We operated a home-based business for many years and I worked alongside him taking calls and selling parts etc. At this time, I decided to finish my schooling and took the GED program.

In 1979 my life changed. My husband had a fatal accident and I was the sole supporter of the four kids. I decided to take a chance and hired another repairman, opened a shop downtown, and started selling new appliances. I was really scared at that time as I didn’t know if it would work out or not. All I can say is that the rest is history. I managed to support myself and the kids and now the business is being operated by my son.

During my years of operating the business I met many nice people. Gail MacDonald urged me to join Rotary and said I would enjoy this association and she was right. I was a member of Rotary for over 20 years and was fortunate enough to get involved volunteering on several international dental Missions. This was my first contact with the medical profession and probably is the reason I joined the Auxiliary. The missions took me to Thailand, Africa, Guatemala and the Philippines. My job was to sterilize the instruments and set up the trays for the dentists. Most of the time we had electricity and were able to use our portable sterilizing machine, however on the last trip I took to the Philippines we were unable to use the machine so had to make do with a pressure cooker. This was set up outside a school using a two-burner gas cooker and I had to regulate the temperature by adjusting the gas burners. Well I had never ever used a pressure cooker in my life so was quite leery of the process. I did quite well at first but all of a sudden there was a great explosion and the lid from the pressure cooker and all the boiling hot instruments went flying at least 15-20 feet and ended up in a classroom. Fortunately no children were in the vicinity at this time so no one was hurt except my pride. This is still talked about to this day and I will probably never live it down.

As I said before, I think that this experience led to me wanting to help the community and as I had a soft spot for health issues and Mission Hospital, I decided to join the Auxiliary. I started out in the gift shop as I felt my life’s experiences would be beneficial. After getting to know a lot of the members I gradually expanded my volunteering and now work in Ambulatory Day Care and help with the TV rentals. This experience has been very rewarding for me and I would encourage everyone to expand themselves and join the executive. I am sure you will be glad you did. I know I am.

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