When Arrow Lakes News caught up with Dale James, she had just got her passport photo re-taken.
“It was painful,” she joked.
But at 82, James was planning to use her renewed passport to its full extent.
“We’re going on a tour of the western Mediterranean later this year,” she says. Though the particulars of the trip aren’t quite settled yet, James says she wants to include stops in North Africa on her tour.
James is a globe-hopping great-grandmother. Last year she hiked the peaks of Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca fortress in Peru. In the fall, she took a cruise of the Caribbean. It was just after the hurricanes had hit the region, and she found herself in ports of call of islands devastated by the storms.
“I was impressed how they cope with having no power, with the hardship,” says James. “The power here goes out for a few hours, and everyone whines. Down there, we’d cruise into a big city and there was not a light, it was pitch black. And they had been without power a month.”
But travel is only one thing keeping James active and healthy. When at home here in Nakusp, she’s known for her work with the hospital auxiliary, raising funds for the facility through the thrift store. She’s been involved there for years, and currently is the organization’s vice-president.
“It takes a lot of hours,” she says. “it’s not a job, not really, it’s more a social thing. It is really fun, it fulfills me.”
That’s not all keeping her busy. She also volunteers for Meals on Wheels, and is the treasurer for her condo unit.
“I’m hoping to get someone to take that on this year,” she admits.
James has been active in the community longer than most of the community has been alive. Moving here as a young nurse in 1958, she quickly became busy with community and family life. She married and began raising a family.
In the early 70s tragedy struck when her husband was killed in an industrial accident. As a widowed mom she raised her children here, then moved away when they grew up. She settled in Penticton B.C.
“At age 52 I had the bad sense to fall in love again,” she says. “The bad luck is, he died very suddenly.
“It’s a difficult thing, when you let yourself wide open then you get punched like that. It certainly put me off doing that again.”
James continued to work in the Okanagan and Princeton areas, retiring at 68. But that’s when Nakusp started calling her back.
“My grandkids were kind of at the teenage years,and they were into hockey, and needed to be driven to hockey, and that was big part of filling my life when work was slowing down,” she says.
But not slowing down completely. Nurses are always in demand in small communities everywhere, and James found herself taking calls from communities like New Denver.
“They were really short and they were staffing out of Nelson,” she says. “They’d phone and say ‘can you work?’ and I’d say yes. And then I’d hang up then say ‘but I don’t want to!’
“I don’t say no well at all.”
Fully retired now, James enjoys focusing on her grandchildren and assorted nephews and grand-nephews in town.
She follows minor hockey to this day, attending as many games as she can. She finds her days as a hockey grand-mom still bring her ties to the community.
“Even yet, when I go to the arena to watch kids playing, it’s ‘Hi Grandma Dale’ from the kids who were friends of my grandsons,” she laughs.
When not watching sport, she continues to participate.
She still cross-country skis (“I gave up downhill last year,”) and enjoys hiking and touring in her motorhome in the summer.
“A lot of people I do hang with are younger than me, like the hiking ladies,” she says. “I am the old fart. I have an age group I do things with, and adjust accordingly.”
She also travels extensively to family in other parts of province, especially at Easter.
“I’m not slowing down, not yet,” she says. She still enjoys helping raise her great-grandchildren (she still has one in Nakusp) and being active around the village.
“I am a Nakusp fan. It really lets you expand to whatever your interests and energy will let you do,” she says. “I really like to leave my car in the garage, and appreciate that I can walk anywhere I want in town, to the post office and such, and meet dozens of people I know.
“And I like that being in a small town keeps you involved. In a bigger place, you can say ‘let Joe do it’, but here if you don’t do it, it never gets done.”
The secret to a long and active life is getting involved, staying involved — and having a little luck.
“I have been lucky enough to have good health,” she says. “And I was lucky enough to have a profession that I don’t have money problems, I have a pension.
“And then my wants are not great. I am pretty happy with the middle of the line, and my living arrangements are wonderful in the condo.”
And in the end, it all comes back to family- the three kids, six grandkids and 12 great-grandkids that remain part of her life.
“I am really pretty lucky. I have a big family, and still kind of feel I have some use,” she says.
“I’m not very fed up yet.”
James goes for cataract surgery later this year, but she’s taking it in stride.
“That won’t slow me down much,” she vows.
Somehow, we doubt it would.