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Kay Jones named Castlegar’s Citizen of the Year

Longtime schoolteacher Kay Jones has been named Castlegar’s 2022 Citizen of the Year. Jones was born in Napier, New Zealand but has lived in Castlegar for over 60 years with her husband David. The Knights of Columbus will honor her on Wednesday, May 31 at St. Rita’s Parish Hall (513 7th Ave.) at 6:30 p.m. We spoke with her last week.

What do you think about being named Citizen of the Year?
I was in absolute, total shock and I thought it was a joke! Bob Saari of the Knights of Columbus phoned and I didn’t recognize his voice at first. I was totally discombobulated. It was a big fat surprise, because there are so many wonderful people in Castlegar. I thought I should turn it down, but one of my very persuasive friends said “Kay, you have to accept, because so many people have written letters about you.”

How long have you lived in Castlegar?
Since 1967. Although I came to Canada in 1961 for two years to visit relatives and teach. There was a big teacher shortage in BC at the time. Little did I think I’d be here 62 years later. After I got married to a Trail engineer we went to New Zealand and he taught math and physics in high school and I taught middle school.

We were there for a year and then David’s application to Selkirk College was accepted and he was invited to be on the founding faculty. He’d grown up in Trail and I’d had a total blast living in Rossland for two or three years, so I was very happy to come back to the Kootenays and so was he.

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Where did you teach?
When I first came to Canada I taught in Kelowna for a year and then in Rossland at MacLean school for three years. Got married and went back to New Zealand for a year. Then we came to Castlegar and I was hired at Kinnaird Elementary and taught there.

How many years did you teach?
Forty in all and 30 at Kinnaird Elementary.

You must run into former students all the time.
I love it! I keep in touch with tons of my ex-students. Especially quite a few from my first year in ’67-68 at Kinnaird.

What else have you been involved with in the community?
All kinds of things. I’m a very devoted Rotarian, to the Castlegar Sunrise club. We were very involved with Kootenay Society for Community Living because we have a special needs daughter with autism. We were very involved with the Castlegar Aquanauts, ski racing, and scouts.

What’s one of your favourite things about living here?
Red Mountain. My husband was a ski racer. He taught me to ski. Skiing at Red Mountain was absolutely fantastic.

Are you looking forward to being honoured on the 31st?
I’m a little bit apprehensive, because I will look out at the audience and see many people that should be where I’m sitting because Castlegar is the most incredible place to live. My husband and I have had medical issues. I have terminal ovarian cancer, which can be treated but not cured. Our neighbours and fellow Rotarians, ex-students, friends, have all been so fantastic. It’s a very nurturing community and I never want to live anywhere else.

I have been down to New Zealand 47 times but I’ve been back to Canada 48 times! So I just feel so fortunate that I have two wonderful countries to belong to. But I’ll always live in Castlegar. It’s a very special community.

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