She had a smile that could light up a room.
The death of city councillor Dorothy Kostrzewa in January was widely mourned by many in her beloved community of Chilliwack.
Born August 17, 1928 as the youngest of eight children in the Chung family, Kostrzewa was remembered for her generous warmth, enthusiasm, and fierce dedication to her community.
Recognized as a trailblazer and an inspiration for women everywhere, she was the first Chinese-Canadian woman to take political office in Canada in 1971 when elected to sit on Chilliwack city council.
She served as a Chilliwack councillor for an impressive 31 years, was awarded UBCM’s long service award for 25 years.
Kostrzewa worked in accounting at the Chilliwack General Hospital before entering city politics.
Her family survived the Fraser River flood of 1948, and stories make it clear she came by her hard-working and tenacious nature, honestly. Dorothy used to tell the story herself of how she and her siblings used a raft to dive down to retrieve fruits and vegetables from a submerged and flooded garden during the Flood of ‘48.
She enjoyed serving the community, and was a champion of many municipal projects from the Chilliwack library, to the Chilliwack Museum, the Cultural Centre and the Piper Richardson statue.
“It always amazed me that she led such an active political life but gathered absolutely no enemies, which can’t be said for everyone else,” former mayor Clint Hames said. “I think people acknowledged the fact that she was so sincere, and honest and willing to put the community first.”
She earned the Order of Chilliwack, was named Woman of the Year, and awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from UFV in 2009 for outstanding community service.
In 2006 Kostrzewa was named one of the 100 Chinese Canadians making a difference in B.C.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz called Kostrzewa a genuine “inspiration” who always treated everyone the same.
“She treated everyone equally, whether they were rich or poor, brilliant or not. That’s the hallmark of a good politician.
Gaetz wrote on the Facebook page: “Rest in peace, grand lady. You are forever loved.”