Dr. Allen Richard Vanderwell left this world for another where he is free and still loved. He died alone April 1, 2019, after living at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Hospice, Edmonton, for close to 2 months. The day before he was conscious and loving with family.
He is remembered with love, sadness, and relief that he is free of suffering by: his wife, Dr. Devon Joy Mark, and her sisters, Maureen (Barry), Lauri (Dave), Camelia (Shannon); his sons, Greg (Shauna) and Jeff; 5 grandchildren; 5 great grandchildren; his brother Lester (Evadene); sister in laws Joyce and Anna; many nieces, nephews, grand nieces and grand nephews. He was predeceased by his parents; his brothers, Vernon and Lorne; and his granddaughter, Melinda. He is respectfully and affectionately remembered by many friends, students, and former colleagues.
Allen loved life. He had an incredible inner strength and spirit. He was brave and courageous. Allen was an incredibly private person. While a psychologist and counsellor by profession he tended to keep his personal feelings to himself. Over the years he nevertheless shared deeply in many warm friendships, and those who knew him appreciated his quirky witty sense of humour. Allen moved through hard times, and embraced living in the moment. He approached the many chapters in his life with the same accepting, resolved attitude expressed in his words after moving into hospice in February, 2019: “There is a lot to get used to…”. “Don’t worry, remember the good times”.
He loved reading most of all and being physically active, walking, bicycling, doing Tai Chi. He loved singing and many varieties of music. He loved watching boats and the sky, birds and trees.
Allen was born in 1932 and was raised in the American Midwest in Rock Valley Iowa, a town from a Norman Rockwell painting with a history of Dutch settlement. His father owned the local hardware store. His mother was invested as a mother and librarian at the local library.
He grew up in a household with three brothers, Vernon, Lester, and Lorne. They were known for their mischief. As the second of 4 sons, he acquired practical skills in his father’s hardware store and on the farms of friends. One gift from his father was the encouragement to make tools he wanted, such as his own knife. A gift from his mother was the love and encouragement of reading which he continued until the end of his life.
He graduated from Rock Valley School in 1950 with a tight knit group of 22 friends. He went off to college. Allen returned for school reunions, delighting in his hometown and meeting old friends, laughing at memories of pranks played and of singing in a quartet.
In 1953 Allen was drafted into the US Army for two years. He served in Communications at a headquarters unit and endured an emotionally scarring 18 month term in Korea. There were upsides to this experience. One of his fellow soldiers encouraged him to continue his education. He also met his first wife, Carol, while on leave to Japan where she was teaching English. He was fascinated by watching storms, especially tornadoes and typhoons, such as the one he experienced on the troop ship coming back from Korea. A true Dutch man, he did not get sea sick walking around the deck. After the war, he decided to continue his education, and with support from US Veterans Affairs, he launched his studies at the University of Iowa where he pursued a career in Psychology.
In 1960 Allen was asked by a previous professor at Iowa University, to work at the student counselling services in Edmonton. Allen , wife Carol, and son Greg, born in 1959, traveled to Edmonton, thinking they would stay a year.
However, the job was intriguing and with the arrival of a second son, Jeff in 1962, the years passed quickly. By the late 60’s, he decided to complete his Doctorate in Psychology, and returned to the University of Iowa. He completed all his doctoral work in one year and eagerly returned to the University of Alberta and the University Counselling Service with new ideas and professional interests. This was his professional home and family for many years. As Dr. Vanderwell, (1970), he enjoyed his roles in teaching in Educational Psychology as well as working as a counsellor.
Allen and Devon met at U of A in the early 70s. They became best friends, sharing common interests in professional work, walking and talking endlessly. Eventually they added cooking, cross country skiing, bicycling, travelling and singing to their enjoyment in life.
They also had the privilege of having two of his sabbaticals together, one in Palo Alto, California in 1979-80, and the other in Sydney Australia in 1987-88. In each adventure, they made some longstanding friendships. In Palo Alto, Allen studied with therapists at the Mental Research Institute, a centre for the study of innovative unique problem solving. The learning from that time endured for the remainder of his professional work. Allen introduced some of the ideas and practices with students in Educational Psychology and with other therapists at the Student Counselling Services.
In Sydney, in 1987-88, perhaps for the first time in both their lives, Allen and Devon were both free of work and responsibilities. They thoroughly enjoyed deciding what to do each day, where to walk, what to explore: another city, a bicycle trip in New Zealand, beaches, or watching the Harbour traffic and fireworks from their apartment on the Paramata River. Daily there was a fascinating parade: tugboats, sailboats, tall ships, the Queen E 11. They had an extraordinary view of the Sydney Harbour, the Sydney bridge and the Sydney opera house. Allen’s son Greg, and Devon’s parents, visited during this time in Sydney and they had more adventures.
In 1992, there were cutbacks at the University. He reluctantly accepted early retirement from his position of Director of the Student Counselling Services at U of A. Eventually, Allen embraced all the changes in his life and moved on, enjoying the his new lifestyle with time for Tai Chi, gardening, bicycling, traveling, exploring new ideas, listening to music, and cooking for Devon. He began attending St. Pauls United Church and joined the choir. He loved this experience. He became involved in a caring community; he began to flourish again. He connected with the Westar Jesus Seminars. With excitement, he attended numerous seminars, including annual meetings in Santa Rosa, and shared what he was learning.
Allen enjoyed family parties and BBQ’s and Christmases with sons, Jeff and Greg and his wife, Shauna and his grandchildren: Melinda, Amanda, Elizabeth, Byron, Evan and Emily. Allen prepared “Roast Beast” instead of turkey. They enjoyed time playing baseball and Bocce. He, sometimes with Devon, visited his brothers and wives in the United States. On one occasion all brothers and their wives met in Jasper for his 70th birthday.
Allen had many virtues. He was kind, adventurous, and helpful. He had a wicked sense of humor… but, at times he was totally stubborn, especially when he had taken on an idea.
There is a saying about Dutch men, passed on to Devon from Allen’s very Dutch Aunt Kate, whom he loved dearly: “wooden shoes, wooden head, wooden listen”.
He was diagnosed with a type of blood cancer in 2006. Subsequently, he experienced a cascade of small and large health issues, which he fought and endured and accepted, letting go of many loved activities such as walking, hearing, singing, and finally reading. He was able to acknowledge that the final life stage of his life was about letting go.
As a last adventure, in the spring of 2017, Devon and Allen were fortunate to buy a second home in Sidney, BC. They continued to explore a beautiful new environment and took gentle walks, sometimes simply around the complex. In his last walk to the small harbour near the condo, he showed Devon a new route to get there. During their visits in Sidney, they enjoyed new and old friends, and visits with family. The final loss for him occurred after radiation in the fall of 2018; he was losing his balance, the last of his hearing, and his ability to read. He was clear that his time to live was limited.
Towards the end of his life he said “I’ve had a good life”. As mentioned, he became a master of living in the moment and focusing on the day, remembering the good times, and sharing his love and warmth. He appreciated everyone who made an effort to visit or to help him out. Special care from staff of Bayshore Home Health Care made it possible for him to stay at home as long as possible before moving to hospice.
We will miss Allen but are relieved that he is free from the struggles he has endured during the past years. Above all he loved deeply and was loved deeply.
Cremation has been completed through caring services of the Ponoka Funeral Home, Ponoka, Alberta.
There have been many people who have helped Allen throughout the years. These people stand out at this time: Dr. Halse (Ponoka Community Hospital and Care Centre); Dr. Venner (W. W. Cross); Dr. Krikke, Dr. Kolotyluk, Dr. Baergen (Misericordia Family Clinic); Dr. Chrzanowski (St. Joseph’s Hospital and Hospice; physiotherapist, Kirsten (Southside Physiotherapy) whom Allen met weekly for much of the past 5 years; the staff at St. Joseph’s Day Program, especially Erika; many of the special health care aides from Bayshore Home Health; and Flighte’ Otika, BSCN, AHS, Allen’s case manager since 2016, who made the home care system work in order that Allen live at home as long as he did.
A Funeral Service will be held at St. Paul’s United Church, 11526-76 Avenue, Edmonton at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, 2019.
Memorial donations are gratefully accepted to the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre Ladies Auxiliary (5800-57 Avenue, Ponoka, AB T4J 1P1) or any charity of your choice.
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