Port Moody says goodbye to an arts champion

A celebration of life for Ann Kitching draws about 200 mourners to Port Moody city hall.

Handmade garments from the Wearable Art competition she started along with artwork, flowers and childhood photos welcomed the bereaved to Ann Kitching's celebration of life last Saturday.

The Galleria at city hall was filled with memories of Kitching, a longtime Port Moody resident who was also a freedom of the city recipient, educator, volunteer and arts leader, among other titles.

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Some 200 friends and family filled the Inlet Theatre to remember Kitching's many achievements and to mourn a woman described so many times as "passionate," "driven" and "decent."

Kitching, who died of cancer last month at Crossroads Hospice two days shy of her 85th birthday, lived a "remarkable life filled with accomplishments and challenges," said friend Gerry Nuttall, a former city councillor who visited with Kitching nearly every morning for a cup of tea.

Nuttall said Kitching was proud of her collection of friends, many of whom watched the memorial service online (courtesy of the city of PoMo) from such far-flung locales as her native England, Mexico, Montreal — where she used to reside in the 1970s — and Vancouver Island.

Born Penelope "Ann" Pickering, Kitching was the daughter of a well-known RAF Spitfire pilot.

She dreamed of making a career in medicine but, when told it was not an appropriate profession for a woman, she ended up in radiography. Kitching married a merchant mariner and the couple had a daughter, Rosemary, and they moved to the Middle East in 1962; however, after they split, Kitching was forced to leave the country as single women were not allowed to reside there.

Kitching landed a job in Dawson Creek — "arriving in her Christian Dior suit," a friend said — and later transferred to an X-ray lab in Edmonton. In 1966, she moved with Rosemary to Montreal and eventually gained degrees in math from Concordia and education from McGill universities.

During the political upheaval in Quebec in the late 1970s, Kitching decided to relocate again.

She and Rosemary travelled to the west coast where they renovated a home on April Road, which she christened the "Chimney House" because of its long chimney.

Kitching obtained work at Douglas and Kwantlen colleges and helped to administer a women's college in Abu Dhabi for a year before forming a private English school back home, and solidifying roots in the community.

It was her volunteerism with the Port Moody Arts Centre that gained her the most praise locally.

Former Conservative MP James Moore talked about Kitching's drive to get the historic Appleyard House connected to the St. Johns Street arts centre, with a glass atrium.

She pressed the federal politician and cabinet minister for funding. "She was a whirlwind of passion," Moore said.

Former Port Moody-Westwood BC Liberal MLA Iain Black — and current Port Moody-Coquitlam BC Liberal MLA Linda Reimer — spoke about Kitching's love for politics and also about advocating for more senior government cash. During one of her last public outings, at the dedication of the Ann Kitching art gallery at PMAC, Reimer told Kitching she needed to return to Victoria immediately for the public accounts committee meeting. "Get us some money, dear," Kitching urged her.

Mayor Mike Clay said Kitching had a knack for the English language and was always persuasive, once telling Premier Christy Clark at a funding announcement at PMAC: "You can do more."

Clay also talked about how she had coined the municipality's brand, the City of the Arts, and had spent hundreds of hours with volunteers to embroider a quilt for the city's 100th year.

Former PMAC executive director and friend Vicki Allesia said Kitching served a role of connector. "If the organization needed something, Ann knew someone," Allesia said, noting Kitching had friends of all political stripes and community involvement who would lend a hand for her cause.

Allesia also described Kitching as a hardworking woman who cared deeply for others. "To wish that Ann would rest in peace would deeply offend her," said Allesia, who jokingly imagined Kitching is now organizing her heavenly angels to host a fundraiser to benefit the souls in hell.

Daughter Rosemary teared up when talking of her "special mother" who gave her unconditional love and nuggets of wisdom. Among them, "Never retire, it's always best to be busy."

jcleugh@tricitynews.com

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