Woman with a CAWES, Iris Carr leaves a long legacy of animal care behind

The 2016 citizen of the year and animal care powerhouse died May 18

Just as she lived her life, Iris Carr was organized in death.

Last Friday morning she returned from hospice to the home on Bowen she’d shared with her husband Bill since 1997. On a piece of lined yellow pad paper, she marked down a to-do list: a sip of juice, a bath, dress in PJs and warm socks, sit on the couch and sip OJ, a last chance to check on the iPad.

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“And then carry on.”

On this day, that meant welcoming the doctor who would help her die.

After suffering greatly from an incurable cancer, Iris chose to end her life on May 18. Under Canada’s new doctor-assisted death legislation, she was able to plan where and when it would happen, with her husband Bill and nephew Andy by her side.

Iris will be best remembered for her total dedication to animals. In 2000 she co-founded Coast Animal Welfare & Education Society (CAWES), to deal with the local feral cat problem.

Iris and her friend Lesley in the 1960s
Iris and her friend Lesley in the 1960s - Bill Carr

“She saw something and she had to be involved ,” said Bill.

Iris served as secretary to the organization until recently, organizing bottles at fundraisers and coordinating the spaying and neutering of cats.

Iris’s long-time friend and former CAWES president Angie McCullough says, “She was really the president because she ran the show.”

“She was fun-loving and funny,” says Angie. “The compassion was resounding in her heart.

“I so admired that about her.”

Not that meetings always went smoothly. Angie can remember a time that a CAWES meeting got so heated that she (Angie) held it up with a paintball gun.

Current president Susanna Braund also feels the loss.

“The passion, the thoughtfulness, the compassion, these are the things we love about her,” said Braund.  

People don’t remember that Bowen had a real feral cat problem, Braund says, and Iris was instrumental in fixing it. “She was visionary.

“Until very recently, she was the one whose number was given out as the CAWES number.”

Iris Crawley was born in Barnet, just north of London, England in 1943. As a young woman, she came to Canada for Expo ’67, one of the two best decisions of her life, she’d tell people.

At a party in Toronto one night Iris scoped out Bill, and gave him her number.  That was the other best decision.

Bill was enchanted and stayed late that night to help with the dishes. However, in doing so he accidentally washed off the number.

Iris and Bill
Iris and Bill were married in 1970. “I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t met her,” he says. - Bill Carr

 But fate was kind and, through some sleuthing, he found her and they started dating.

One night, a couple years after they’d met, Bill arrived at Iris’s building to hear music blasting in the hallway.  

It was Laura Nyro’s 1969 hit, “Wedding Bell Blues,” with the distinctive refrain, “Kisses and love won’t carry me till you marry me Bill.”

“It took me another six months to get the hint,” Bill chuckles.

August 1 would have been their 48th wedding anniversary.

“I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t met her,” says Bill.

The couple moved from Toronto to Burnaby to Horseshoe Bay, with Iris working for Xerox and Toshiba, among other companies.
When they got to the West Coast, the Carrs knew they were going to stay. “We fell in love with both the mountains and the ocean,” says Bill.

The couple moved to Bowen in 1997.

Iris loved travelling, and they had not only done road trips in Europe, but drove across Canada in 2000. She and Bill made the trip in a Westphalia, reminiscent of the one in which they’d spent their honeymoon, touring Spain and France.  

For her service to the island, in 2016 Iris, along with Bill, a long-time volunteer with the recycling depot and other initiatives, received the citizen of the year award for Bowen Island.

Iris survived breast cancer in 2000, but last year it returned.

The doctors told her she would never get better, and Iris decided to leave on her own terms.

“D-day,” she called it in emails to Bill and her caregivers.

“Please don’t make me wait,” she wrote.

On an afternoon ferry May 18, the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) doctor and nurse came over to Bowen.

“There was no rush,” says Bill. The doctor interviewed Iris to make sure she wasn’t being coerced and was of sound mind, and to make sure she still wanted to go through with the procedure.

Iris had at least once before changed her mind. But this time, she was ready.

Bill said he accepted her decision. “I could see she was suffering, and she’d never be cured,” he said.  

Those close to Iris knew about her decision and the countdown to D-day.

“She was brave the way she went,” said Angie, “but I’m sad.”

At Iris’s request, there will be no memorial service.

© Copyright Bowen Island Undercurrent

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