Friends remember chamber of mines pillar

Dorothy Howett, a Life Member of the Yukon Chamber of Mines since 1988 and inducted into the Yukon Prospectors’ Association’s honour roll…

Dorothy Howett, a Life Member of the Yukon Chamber of Mines since 1988 and inducted into the Yukon Prospectors’ Association’s honour roll in 1989, died at Creston, British Columbia, on May 31.

She was 92.

Longtime friend Ron Granger, also of Creston, remembered Dorothy’s lengthy career as the chamber’s secretary beginning in 1968.

“Her position took roots in a little frame house behind Hougen’s department store before the chamber offices relocated to the basement of the then-newly minted city hall on Second Avenue,” recalled Granger, a retired 21-year veteran of the chamber’s executive and close personal friend of the deceased.

Next, the chamber bought the historic, gable-roofed Bill Taylor log house on the corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue, across the street from the present Gold Rush Inn.

Dorothy, always close to her work station, had moved into the comfortable upper-floor apartment with her seven tons of books and a cat.

Chamber guests remember the aloof, blue-eyed Siamese staking out its comfy day-time sleeping quarters on top of the warm copier.

Dorothy Alexandra Oswald was born November 30, 1914, in New Westminster, British Columbia, and grew up and attended grade schools in nearby Burnaby.

She studied for a bachelor of arts at the University of British Columbia before completing nursing at Royal Columbian Hospital.

She married William Howett, an English-born civil engineer, in 1938.

The couple operated a Vancouver bookstore for four years, then moved to the Yukon.

Dorothy practised nursing in Mayo Hospital and Bill found work with United Keno Hill Mines.

When Bill Howett was engaged with Conwest Explorations, and the Howetts had moved to Whitehorse, they shared a heritage house with the popular Alec Berry, a Conwest scout and public relations man.

Dorothy worked for Mac’s Fireweed Book Store on Main Street and CBC.

When Bill died in 1968, Dorothy joined the Yukon Chamber of Mines where she acted as secretary-receptionist.

She was a very strong member of the teams teaching the annual prospecting courses, which resulted in her becoming a competent mineral collector, said Granger.

“Much of the cased mineral collection in the entrance way belonged to Dorothy,” he added. “She ordered specimens from all over.”

Dorothy, known for her inquisitive mind and sharp memory, took a lively interest in the activities of mineral prospectors and in the Yukon Prospectors’ Association to which she volunteered a great deal of time over many years.

When Dorothy ceased work at the chamber about the mid-1980s, she lived in a Closeleigh Manor apartment and ultimately managed the Whitehorse retirement facility on Lambert Street and First Avenue.

In late 1990, she moved to the Creston area of southeast British Columbia, to be near several good friends.

One especially close friend was the late Diane Granger who painted a picture of Ms. Katz, the chamber cat, as Ron dubbed the feline, as a nostalgic gift for Dorothy.

Soon, Dorothy was settled contentedly into her own trailer home and luxuriated in cats, books, 40 humming birds at the feeders, and a jumbo-sized garden.

In her twilight years, confronted with various ailments, Dorothy resided in an excellent care facility only a few hundred feet from the Granger home.

Ron acted on her behalf in matters that she could no longer handle for herself.

Yet, in her final moments, despite her failing memory, she understood when told that her article had been posted on the prospectors’ association’s website and her name had been engraved on the honour roll plaque of the bronze prospector statue that watches over downtown Whitehorse from Main Street and Third Avenue.

“That made her smile and she was able to say ‘GOOD,’” said Granger.

Dutch Van Tassell, former exploration superintendent for United Keno Hill Mines in Whitehorse, who served a long tenure on the chamber’s executive committee, worked closely with Dorothy.

In 1969, he and his family had moved to Whitehorse from the Elsa operation and established an exploration office in the old medical clinic, conveniently located across Main Street from the chamber.

“I have many fond memories of Dorothy and remember our first meeting when I traveled to Whitehorse with Swede Hanson as we set up a Mayo branch of the chamber,” recalled Van Tassell.

“Of course, after I moved to Whitehorse and became really involved with the chamber and had the opportunity to work closely with Dorothy, I remember her for her bubbly personality and such a positive attitude,” added the Alberta-based geological consultant.

“She was a guiding and steady hand as the chamber progressed,” Van Tassell continued.

“Dorothy, for a number of years, was the cement that bound the organization together.”

As you can well imagine, he said, there were a few meetings where things could get hot as personalities clashed.

“Dorothy could always have a calming effect,” he said.

Thanks to Ron Granger for supplying photo and text about Dorothy Howett.

For more information, visit the prospectors’ association’s website at www.north-land.com/ypa/ index.html.

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