Terry Metcalfe relaxes at his Brookswood home during his rare free times in retirement.

Terry Metcalfe: a lifetime of service to his home community

Terry Metcalfe has seen many changes in Langley over the past 60-odd years.

Terry Metcalfe has seen many changes in Langley over the past 60-odd years.

Langley today doesn’t look anything like the rural hamlet he came to in 1949 when his parents moved the family halfway across the country from his birthplace of Regina. And in many ways Metcalfe has contributed to those changes over the years, and indeed, continues to contribute to them.

However, the one constant in his life has been the importance of service to his community, whether it’s his careers in the military, public education and fire department, or the myriad of volunteer positions he’s served and continues to serve in his retirement.

“When we first came to 42 Avenue, Hillcrest, in Brookswood there had been a large forest fire here in the ’40s, and I was playing in the ashes,” recalls Metcalfe.

“And Belmont was a one-room red school house, where I attended grades 1 and 2, before it was replaced.”

He went on to graduate from Langley Secondary in 1962 and after completing grade 13 and training at Royal Roads and Royal Military College in Kingston in 1967, he signed on with the Royal Canadian Navy. He was sure he wanted a career in the navy, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the world on destroyer escorts from Panama to Australia to Tahiti for three years, but found it was not what he wanted to do.

“I decided it was not for me and on my release in 1970 I went to SFU for my teaching certificate. In January 1972 I started teaching at H.D. Stafford Secondary.”

Metcalfe remained involved with the Sea Cadet program, however. He was one of the original members of RCSCC Columbia in Aldergrove as he transferred here from New Westminster in 1959 when Columbia was founded by George McAdam.

“I was Columbia’s first senior cadet, from 1959 to 1963, and came back as an officer from 1972 to 1986. I served under George McAdam and took over as commanding officer when he retired.”

Metcalfe also started out as a volunteer fire fighter in Langley in 1972 at Brookswood Hall #5, where he rose to chief, and when Langley Township offered its six district fire chiefs full-time employment in 1986, Metcalfe decided the time was ripe for another career change.

“As it happened 1986 was a struggle for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation,” recalls Metcalfe. “The BCTF had become a union and 1985 was their first strike. So I switched to the fire department.”

Here Metcalfe rose through the ranks to become Township Fire Chief, before retiring in 2004 as the department began its transition to full-time crews. Today there are four full-time fire halls, with a total crew of 64, 16 per shift.

He observes that there are fewer fire calls these days, thanks to smoke alarms and sprinklers that help reduce overall damage, but in trade there is a larger role in attending vehicular crashes.

“We are first responders and not only do we protect the injured, we also protect ambulance paramedics from being hit by cars or hurt by toxic spills. Fires are fewer but still require manpower.”

Over those years he built his home next door to his parents’ home in Brookswood, as well as served as past-president of Aldergrove Rotary Club and current chair of the Aldergrove Credit Union board of directors.

His biggest challenge since retiring has been leading the major reconstruction of Langley Lodge, where he currently serves as chair of the Care Society that oversees its operations.

“Retired people like myself are valuable because we’re available in the daytime but it comes to a point when you have to pick and choose how many organizations you can be involved with. So I’ve put my major focus on the Lodge.”

The Lodge’s 28-million renovation has fully modernized the original 1974 building, which were previously double rooms shared by pairs of seniors. Now the 139 residents have private rooms to themselves (although there are still five double rooms which are available to couples), and each floor has a dining room for the floor’s 26 residents. There are 150 staff, although some are part-time.

“When it started in 1974 it was seniors housing, but now it’s complex care. Thanks to programs that help keep people in their own homes longer we’re seeing residents who are much frailer than before. I can remember when there used to be half a dozen wheelchairs used at the Lodge, today there are 50.”

The 24-hour care, food and activities to keep minds active cost money. It works out to $5,400 each resident per month, and while most residents are subsidized by government, there are presently 18 who are able to pay their own way privately.

“There are more today who need help with their medications, we have two physiotherapists, a hairdresser — more than three quarters are women, they live longer than men — and we like to offer programs and activities so that they’re not stuck in front of a TV all day long.”

The residents don’t have cash but they have a comfort fund that pays for treats like the Lodge’s “New to You Clothing Sales” and supplements to the food service such as the pork roast dinner for residents and invited families, and the Valentine’s dinner, at which Metcalfe and volunteers dress up in suits and ties and attend to tables as servers.

“Food is one of the few delights left to many residents, and we also have a bus for outings that is funded by the Langley Rotarians.”

While the primary funding for the Lodge’s operations comes from government, the Care Society and associated Care Foundation must raise funds for the little extras that make residents’ lives more enjoyable and meaningful.

For example the society’s Oct. 13 “1940s New York-themed Gala” at Cascades Theatre has a target of $50,000 to pay for the horticulture, music therapy and pastoral care programs.

The horticulture program has two workers which provide landscaping for the Lodge, but also allows residents with “green thumbs” the therapy of digging in the dirt and growing flowers. Music therapy includes a choir, handbell group and sing-alongs. And while church groups routinely come into the Lodge, the pastoral care provides for spiritual needs of those who may not have a home church.

“It’s just a part of the $250,000 overall that we must raise every year,” says Metcalfe. “We have other events at Cloverdale Raceway and Brookswood Theatre, and we apply for grants, and the Township and City of Langley assist us too.

“It can be stressful, there are so many charities out there today after the same dollars, but when it comes down to the wire it never ceases to amaze me how everyone pulls together and helps us reach the targets,” says Metcalfe.