Penticton couple donates major gift for the Penticton Regional Hospital cancer treatment center

Couple donates major gift

A couple with almost life-long ties to Penticton and Summerland has made a major donation to Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH), supporting the Oncology Department at PRH through the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation.

Ross and Evelyn Axworthy were high school sweethearts, who raised children in the area and found it an easy choice to donate to the PRH.

Evelyn (nee Washington) family settled in the early 1900s in the Summerland community, where her grandfather, Jonathan Thomas Washington immigrated to Canada from England.

While Ross was born in Saskatchewan and arrived in Summerland as a teenager after moving with his family to several communities through BC before. The pair met at the Summerland High School in the early 1950s and they’ve been together ever since.

Their life began when Evelyn started her career in education in Osoyoos and later at Penticton High School, taking a year of education courses. She and Ross married in 1958 and Evelyn took 10 years off to raise their two sons and daughter.

Ross began his career in the Penticton automotive/industrial supply firm, where he started building his business sense.

Evelyn returned back to teaching while also gradually working towards her Bachelor of Education degree from UBC over the next several years. She ended up receiving her diploma at the same time their elder son obtained his Bachelor of Science degree at UBC in 1984 and went on to obtain a Masters Degree from SFU in 1984.

“It took me a long time, but it can be done,” Evelyn said in a press release. “It was very satisfying and underscored the pleasure of watching each of our children progress steadily to their degrees.”

Evelyn spent most of her career at Columbia Elementary where she remained until her retirement in 2001.

“That was a really great pleasure. During that time I taught just about every grade that was there and finished with 10 years as vice-principal,” she said. “It was a great school and we had some wonderful teachers there.”

And Ross continued moving forward in his career with the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and eventually became their president who also sat on the Penticton Chamber of Commerce board. By the mid-1970s, Ross was hired as the chamber’s general manager, a position he held for the next 12 years.

“That was a very rewarding part of my life with all sorts of involvement in the community,” he said.

One of those connections was helping form Penticton’s sister city ties with Ikeda, Japan. Ross chaired the Penticton-Ikeda Sister City Society for 30 years with an official sister city agreement signed in Japan in 1977.

A continuation of this partnership has been seen in an ongoing series of cultural, business and educational exchanges, with the most notable local landmark seen at the Japanese Garden next to the Penticton Art Gallery.

Throughout their lives, PRH has been a time of joy, where their children were all born at the hospital. The couple has had a couple of major health issues too, seeing Ross suffered a stroke in 2005 but luckily taken directly to the Emergency Department in less than 30 minutes and received a special drug to clear a blockage of his carotid artery.

“I went from being completely paralyzed on my right side and within an hour or so, I was back to normal. I was very fortunate,” he said.

Evelyn also suffered a stroke in 2013 and has fully recovered. Now in their 80s, the Axworthy’s praise the hospital and its staff.

“The nurses and doctors – all the staff are just amazing. We’re so impressed with them,” Ross said. “We’re happy to donate to the hospital which is such an essential part of the community."

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