It may be 60 years since LaVerne Kindree first arrived in Squamish. But the doctor who helped develop the town’s healthcare centre can still be found tirelessly working behind the scenes — though he’d never call any attention to himself.
One day after joining the honourary Order of Canada, a retired Kindree spoke point-blank about his recent fundraising work to buy medical equipment for Squamish General Hospital, his 50-plus year medical practice, and his fierce community involvement.
“Things that need to be done come along, and so you pitch in and try and do them,” said Kindree in his soft, weathered voice.
“It is not so much anything drives you, other than the opportunities that come along to do things and you just naturally take them on.”
Kindree was one of 61 people named to the Order of Canada on Dec. 28.
Those named to the highest order include Celine Dion, tenor Ben Heppner, and businessman Peter Munk. The second highest rank contains former politicians Iona Campagnolo and Allan MacEachen.
Like Kindree, poet Don McKay also became a Member of the Order, the third highest level.
“It is quite an honour to be named,” said Kindree, who received the phone call from the Governor General’s office in Ottawa four weeks ago. He was told to keep quiet until after the official announcement was made.
“There are some famous people there.”
The Saskatchewan-born doctor first arrived in Squamish in 1948. His predecessor had died in World War II, and the town was desperate for a doctor.
“I came up to look at it, and I kind of liked the town,” said Kindree, who had been working as an intern at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“I used to be a railroader before I went into medicine, and it was a railroad town. That appealed to me.”
Squamish didn’t have a hospital then, and Kindree practised at the back of a drug store in an office he shared with a dentist.
The town, though, recognized that a young doctor would probably not stay long without a hospital. A committee was formed in 1950 to build a proper facility, and two years later Squamish General Hospital opened its doors.
Kindree continued to practice medicine for the next 53 years. Over time, the hospital grew in scope and scale, and today Squamish is home to approximately 15 doctors.
Kindree’s service to the Sea to Sky community extends beyond healthcare, though.
Among many things, Kindree sat on the Squamish municipal council for 23 years, worked as a coroner for the B.C. government for 48 years, spent eight years with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and was a member of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce.
Kindree also held weekly clinics at the Mount Currie Reserve for 20 years.
And between 1989 and 1994, the doctor conducted a study with his daughter, a nurse, to prove the existence of Lyme disease in B.C. Because of their work, the B.C. government admitted the tick and field mouse-borne disease was endemic to the province.
Kindree’s volunteerism did not decline after his retirement in 2001. Today, he remains a driving force behind the Squamish Health Care Foundation Society.
The foundation’s recent work includes raising $3 million in 2006 to expand the emergency department and helping Whistler receive a Computed Tomography (CT) scanner. They hope to buy more ultrasound equipment for the hospital in the near future.
“My main effort has been to try and get the money to put the equipment in the hospital so that they (today’s Squamish doctors) would have a better chance at practising medicine then what we did,” said Kindree.
“There is so much technical machinery needed to practise medicine now that if you don’t have it, you are at a great handicap. It is a matter of trying to get that machinery so that they have a better chance at practising medicine.”
Kindree also received a B.C. Achievement Award in 2005 for his work.