For 24 years at the Swan Lake Nature House, Cora Shaw was a familiar face.
She saw executive directors, staff and volunteers come and go over the decades, but the 84-year-old dutifully volunteered every Tuesday, when she wasn’t travelling the world.
On Tuesday, volunteers and staff at Swan Lake held a tearful celebration for Shaw, who is stepping down into a kind of second retirement.
“You are definitely an important part of the team. We are grateful you chose Swan Lake as your special place,” Terry Morrison, a former executive director of the Swan Lake nature sanctuary, told Shaw.
“She is by far the longest standing volunteer,” Morrison said. “She is quite a part of this place.” These days Swan Lake has about 250 volunteers and seven paid staff, and a few part time employees.
“How do you top that record? I don’t think anyone will,” said Barry Janyk, the recently hired Swan Lake executive director. “People have busy, hectic lives. Cora exemplified involvement (in the community).”
Shaw has volunteered in the Swan Lake office with administration and reception since 1988, jumping off her first retirement from being a secretary in the University of Victoria continuing studies department.
Shaw, smiling but teary eyed after the tributes and applause, said she started volunteering after seeing an ad in a newspaper. She wanted to keep up her office skills “instead of sitting at home doing nothing.”
“I was looking for something to keep me out of mischief,” she said laughing. “It’s been an enjoyable way to spend my retirement.
“For the last 24 years its been a big part of my life. The staff have been fantastic. I’ve seen a lot of them come and go.”
Age and modern technology have conspired to make it difficult for Shaw to remain a volunteer in the role that she’s had. She admits she’s not much of a computer person.
Shaw said she’ll keep visiting Swan Lake as long as she can drive, and walk the paths to see the birds and wildlife. The marshy lake remains a sanctuary for plants and animals, and a sanctuary for the Saanich resident.
“It’s nice to walk around the lake and I like the birds here,” Shaw said. “With so many houses and traffic on the highway, this is a nice oasis for the city of Victoria. To me this is a nice oasis.”