Chilliwack historian Merlin Bunt presents Nirmala Raniga with his write-up of the Conboy Block building at Cedarview Clinic on Jan. 20, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

History lives on for unfamiliar 1953 Conboy Block building in Chilliwack

The building is not well-known, but Chilliwack historian Merlin Bunt is hoping to change that

The story of a little-known building in downtown Chilliwack will live on thanks to the work of a local historian.

Chilliwack historian Merlin Bunt recently presented the owner of the Cedarview Clinic with a printout of his historical account of the Conboy Block, the building on College Street where the clinic is located.

Now, that piece of history is hanging on the wall of the clinic for patients and guests to see.

“It’s not that well-known, but it’s got a lot of history,” Bunt said.

The Conboy Block was built in 1953, and owned by Inez Zella Conboy (1896-1970) who moved to Chilliwack in 1944, and became known for her community work.

“She served as president of the Chilliwack Council of Women and Chilliwack Soroptimist Club, an elder of the Chilliwack United Church, secretary of BC Nut Growers, a Liberal candidate for the BC Legislative Assembly, and was the first woman to join the executive of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce,” Bunt wrote.

Conboy was a champion of women’s causes, he noted, advocating joint marital property rights.

In 1947 she spoke passionately on this topic before the B.C. Legislature, which led to the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act.

“Further, in 1950, she was named solicitor for the City of Chilliwack, an office she held for much of the 1950s.”

After it was built in 1953, Conboy moved her law practice to the new building, which was conveniently located directly across from the law courts at the time.

That same year, Dr. John Grandy moved his medical practice to the second floor of the building. Also in 1953, Dr. Grandy delivered Bunt who, for 17 years, frequented the Conboy building for medical appointments.

These days when Bunt drives by the building, it evokes memories of walking up the stairs to Dr. Grandy’s office. That’s why he decided to research the history of the Conboy Block and write the story which he eventually shared on his Facebook page, Chilliwack History Perspectives.

He was standing outside the building taking photos one day and met Pauline Kesteven who works at Cedarview. That’s when Bunt learned even more about the Conboy Block.

Cedarview is a clinic which specializes in helping people with opioid addictions. It is owned by Nirmala Raniga who has been working in the field of opioid dependency for 31 years. She has five clinics including Cedarview which opened in Chilliwack 15 years ago.

“People talk about the opioid crisis now [but] I remember there was a time when people used to wait a month to get on the program. Some people, while they were waiting, overdosed and died,” Raniga said, adding that now people can get on the program right away with a doctor’s approval.

“We actually see a different side. We see people [who] show up in our clinics get help and get their life in some sort of order where they are contributing members of society. We see it firsthand,” she added.

Like Inez Conboy, Raniga is making a difference in the lives of people in Chilliwack and Bunt has packed all the interesting historical facts on the Conboy Block into one story for Cedarview patients to see.

Bunt presented the large printout to Raniga and the clinic staff on Jan. 20 “to help the opioid crisis and to further Chilliwack history,” he said.

“[There’s] a lot of history here and thanks to everybody involved here, it lives on,” Bunt said.

RELATED: Digging down deep reveals quirky bits of Chilliwack history

RELATED: Chilliwack’s oldest school, Central elementary, celebrates 90 years


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The Conboy Block in 2019. (Chilliwack History Perspectives Collection)

A 1953 portrait of Inez Zella Conboy (1896-1970), the woman behind development of the Conboy Block. (Chilliwack Progress Archives)

Chilliwack historian Merlin Bunt presents Nirmala Raniga with his write-up of the Conboy Block building at Cedarview Clinic on Jan. 20, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

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