Parkinson mugs for the camera with Mayor Maja Tait and Premier John Horgan during a celebration at Sooke Municipal Hall. (Contributed)

Former councillor’s legacy written on the hearts of Sooke residents

Sooke is a ‘more beautiful place’ thanks to Brenda Parkinson

Brenda Parkinson’s death was a significant loss to the community, but the legacy she left behind will live on for years to come.

Parkinson, a Sooke district counsellor, died of cancer on June 28. She was 63.

Parkinson’s love for the arts was demonstrated through her years of advocacy work in Sooke.

“If there is one thing I think we’ll always remember Brenda for is how she made Sooke a more beautiful place,” said former mayor Wendal Milne.

“She was very proud of her community and her objective was always to beautify Sooke. She was responsible for the artwork on electrical boxes and bus shelters and when Communities in Bloom came around, she took a leading role. It was just natural for her to take it on.”

RELATED: Parkinson played a big role in Communities in Bloom

The Communities in Bloom program was a point of particular pride for Parkinson and in 2014 when the community won its first five-blossom award, she was effusive about her pride in the community.

“For Sooke, it shows we’ve done something. And it’s great that we have all the businesses participating,” she said at the time.

Parkinson managed to sustain that level of pride in the hearts of Sooke, and the Communities in Bloom organization awarded the community another five-blossom award in 2018.

Milne said it was Parkinson’s skill in inspiring others to work together to make Sooke a more beautiful community that will be an important part of how she’s remembered.

He recalled how Parkinson was chosen to bring together the disparate factions of the community’s arts community and how effective she was in getting people to work together toward the common goal of promoting the arts in Sooke.

“Part of how she managed to do that was just how genuine she was,” Milne said.

“I remember once asking her how she’d settled on the colour for decorative flower baskets for the community and she smiled sweetly and told me that it was ‘whore-house purple’ that she’d seen in Nevada and thought to be a nice colour. When I told that story at council, she laughed as hard as anyone.”

It was that same unabashed enthusiasm that allowed her to facilitate the formation of the Sooke Performing Arts Group. By bringing together the Sooke Folk Music Society, the Sooke Performing Arts group and Sooke Visual Arts, she created a framework for the advancement of art in the community in an eclectic format unique to Sooke.

“She was a tremendous supporter of the performing arts, the music, visual art … all of it,” said Linda Gordon of the Sooke Art Council.

“Her enthusiasm and belief that Sooke could be a more beautiful place that promoted the arts was infectious and those beliefs will live on long after her passing.”

Lee Boyko, the executive director of the Sooke Region Museum, said Parkinson’s legacy comes as a result of her boundless energy.

“We have a night market because of Brenda. She started talking to me one day, and she just made it happen,” he said.

Parkinson also was instrumental in promoting projects like the Amber Academy and the Sooke Harmony Project.

“She just made things happen and has inspired others in the community to take the same approach to beautify the community and bring the arts alive in any number of ways.

But Mayor Maja Tait said beyond Parkinson’s impact on the arts community, she undoubtedly left another legacy behind.

“I think she’ll be remembered for how she inspired others, not just in the arts, but in life,” Tait said.

“She supported young artists and children and urged them to pursue their dreams. She would tell them to follow your dreams and ideas and demonstrated that in her own life.”

That positive, inspirational approach carried over to her role as a marriage commissioner, Tait said.

“I remember how one couple was set to be married and the weather was just horrible. There was such a storm and the bride was so disappointed,” Tait said.

“Brenda went to the bride and told her that there was never a bad day to get married and that she should ‘laugh in the wind and dance in the rain.’ I’m sure that’s a bit of advice that the bride still remembers. It’s a legacy I’d be proud of.”

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Laughter was a big part of Brenda Parkinson’s life. (Contributed)

Brenda Parkinson with Premier John Horgan and Mayor Maja Tait. (Contributed)

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