To be or not to be? For Jeanne Wolfe, that question was answered by the time she was eight years old. “My mom took me to see Oliver and it was so magical for me. From that time on, I knew that I would be involved in theatre,” she enthused.
Both her mother and father are prairie folk; good, honest, kind, hard-working people who lived off the land. Her mother was from Muenster, Saskatchewan while her father lived a short distance away in Marysburg and yet they didn’t meet until they headed out west. “My mother met her yet-to-be mother-in-law on the train coming out here. When mom rolled through Chilliwack, she looked out the window and thought that she’d died and gone to heaven and vowed to live here one day,” she said, with a quick chuckle.
After her parents married, they made their home in Ocean Falls, a mill town located on B.C.’s Central Coast. The mill operated for many years but by the early 70s the facility had become inefficient and uneconomical and the mill’s owner decided to shut it down, effectively shutting down the town by 1973. “Dad had seen signs, well in advance, of what was happening and since he had a brother living in Chilliwack at the time, they decided to move here,” she said.
So, from the time that she was three years old, Jeanne lived in Chilliwack and thoroughly enjoyed its rural setting. “It was such a great place to grow up,” she said, with vivid recollection. She was always a creative child and to this day she’s still working on pencil portraits. “My maternal grandfather was a painter and I used to watch him with fascination. He had a swing in his workshop and I would swing back and forth while he painted and I was captivated by what he was doing. My family was also fairly musical,” she said.
After graduating, she took as many theatre courses as she could in Chilliwack. She was even a member of the Chilliwack Player’s Guild and had a blast.
But soon it was time to move on to further her career, so Jeanne headed out east to take Theatre Production Design at York University, one of Canada’s largest universities.
One summer, after being in university for a couple of years, she came home to Chilliwack and began working at a popular, local dinner theatre known as the Galley and Gallery. “I auditioned for a part in Neil Simon’s I Ought to be Pictures and got the part. Bill Green owned the business and he was from New York so I learned so much from him. He decided to take the show to Abbotsford and at that point, I made the decision not to return to school. I moved to Abbotsford and did a couple of seasons there and learned from the very best. It was a semi-pro house and we ended up taking the show to the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island,” she explained.
After appearing at the Waterfront, Jeanne was offered a position at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre. From there she was picked up by the entertainment division of Expo where she worked for two years. “After Expo, I had my two boys, who are just my favourite people. Unfortunately theatre isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle and theatre and a family don’t necessarily mix, so I headed back to Chilliwack which is where I had a support base,” she said.
Once she was re-established in Chilliwack, Jeanne returned to what was then UCFV and began working on an Associate of Arts degree. “I did that and then decided to get into the business aspect and eventually wound up at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. Wow, I have been here since 2004!” As the head of embroidery at Imagewear in Chilliwack, a division of Mark’s Work Wearhouse and the largest supplier of branded, footwear and promotional products in Canada, she has the pleasure of working with so many corporations, service groups, schools and the trades. “I absolutely love what I do and I love coming to work each and every day. There is never a dull moment and it’s always different. When I was working in Abbotsford, I got into stage management and this is like that in many ways. I have the ability to use my creative side and there are specific deadlines to meet. I love my clients. They are awesome people and in many cases they have become my friends,” she said.
When Jeanne is not hard at work, she enjoys what she calls her other life. “I enjoy the theatre and I’m pleased that Chilliwack has so many more amenities with respect to the arts. I try to go to as many shows as I can and eventually, when I have a bit more time, I will get back into it again with both feet,” she laughed.