Although Jill Last was born 7,516 kilometres from Hope—in Felixstowe, England—she says she wishes she’d come to Hope when immigrating to Canada with her husband nearly 60 years ago.
“I should’ve come to Hope right from the start—it’s been very good to me,” explained Last, who’s been a part of the community since 1992. “We’ve been very happy here.”
Upon arriving in Hope, Last says she dived head-on into involving herself with as much of the community as possible, both through her work, and volunteering.
“Volunteering makes me feel good,” Last said after finishing up teaching her regular Tuesday exercise class at the Canyon Golden Age Club.
“If you’re going to volunteer, you need to get something out of it for yourself—something (like) making you feel good,” she continued. “I have a passion (for volunteering), and the things that I do, I do because I’m passionate about them.
“But I know the time has come. It’s time to retire.”
After decades of engaging with the community through her passions, Last says she’s finally ready to step off the fast track and begin taking it easy.
“I was a marriage commissioner for almost 10 years, (and) got to know a lot of people by the weddings I did. I’ve been teaching the exercise class for 20 years, and was at the Rec Centre before that. And I’ve always been a volunteer at the Lodge, and got to know a lot of people there.”
A musician at heart, Last has been directing the community choir, which is more than 50-years-old, for eight years. “It’s fairly big now, we’ve got at least 30 singers.”
Prior to that, Last also taught music in Hope for years, and in 2012, she says she was honoured to win the Heart Hero award, which was sponsored by a health fair that was being run at the time. And in March of this year, Last says she was again honoured when she was one of five women in the community to be given a Women of Distinction Award from the Hope and Area Transition Society (HATS).
“That was pretty special,” Last recalled with a smile.
“But more time is (now) needed to do other things,” Last explained. “I probably won’t slow down, though, that’s not my personality. I can do other things that I’ve always been interested in, so there (may be) other things I can get involved in as a volunteer.”
That said, Last is hosting a party on Saturday, April 13, at the United Church Hall, from 2 till 4 p.m, to not only ring in her 79th birthday, but to also celebrate the newest chapter in her life. But Last says she doesn’t want any gifts—that’s not what it’s about.
“I’ll get such a kick out of people coming and having a good time, that’s what makes me feel good,” she said. And “I want to show my appreciation (to the community because), through thick and thin, they’ve supported me. So this is my way of saying thank you.
“And while it makes me sad when I think about (retiring), I know that anything I do I have to do my best at,” and Last says she’s finally come to terms with not being able to live up to her own standards any longer.
“But I’ve met some really great people here,” she added. “I’ll never leave Hope. I may be retiring, but I’ll (still be) around, just not teaching exercise class or choir.”