“I really don’t know how to start this. Over the course of fifty some years of marriage, Doreen became so much a part of my life that I cannot begin to express my feelings now that she is gone,” said Dick Strayer, delivering his wife’s eulogy. Given some time, Dick did know how to express himself. One thing he did was to create the Doreen Strayer Memorial Fund at Saskatoon Foundation.
Doreen was born in Moose Jaw and received her schooling in Drinkwater. It was in Drinkwater that Dick, returning as a sophomore from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), took notice of the beautiful young lady, who would later become his wife. While Dick continued his pursuit of studies in Engineering, Doreen trained to become a nurse.
“She was a real favourite of all those she worked with, as she showed great compassion for the patients under her care,” recalls Dick. After marrying in 1951 and a few moves, the couple and their young family settled in Saskatoon in 1958, where Dick joined the U of S Faculty of Engineering.
“She was happy when she was able to become involved more in school, church and various other activities. She was a great support to her kids, both in school and sports activities, seldom missing the boys’ hockey or ball games, and accompanying our daughter to many figure skating competitions,” says Dick. Her involvement didn’t end there. Doreen taught Sunday School, volunteered as a leader with Canadian Girls in Training, was active within the Order of the Eastern Star, and served as a charter member of the Saskatoon Professional Engineers Wives Association.
After a few years of mysterious symptoms, in the early 1970s Doreen was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While the news devastated the family, Doreen was determined to continue a normal life and carry on her regular activities. When eventually forced to give up some activities she loved, Doreen replaced them with new ones such as duplicate bridge. She suffered a stroke in 1998, but was able to remain at home until early 2002 when she entered Stensrud Lodge where she received wonderful, compassionate care.
The Doreen Strayer Memorial Fund is a befitting tribute to “one of the bravest people I ever knew,” says Dick. “She simply never gave up as long as she could see the bright side of life.”
In many ways it was very natural for Dick to do something that would help others. It’s in his blood. He was raised in a volunteer oriented family; both of his parents gave freely of their time to support their community, church and other activities.
Dick has vivid recollections of growing up in the depression and “dirty thirties yet can recall many instances of great compassion shown in the community for people in trouble. One such occurrence still stands out. A neighbor had lost everything in a house fire. His dad, along with others in the district, found food, clothes, and money to help them out. His dad not only donated an unused house, but with his hired man “fired up the old Reeves,” an old steam tractor unused for many years, and moved the house to its new location.
It was only natural for Dick, once Doreen was gone, to take his pain and turn it into something good. With the creation of the Doreen Strayer Memorial Fund, Doreen and Dick continue to support the Cameco MS Neuroscience Research Centre at Saskatoon City Hospital. Dick is hopeful that one day a cure for MS will be found.