Information by Mrs. C. Hind, 1973
A frontier community is usually self-sufficient in all regards. Pioneer settlers are a hardy group and they can handle anything that comes their way. However, sickness and injury increase with increased population and sooner or later the settlement requires medical personnel.
This was the case with the settlers in the Peace River District. People had established themselves throughout the area and it was very difficult for neighbors to help each other when illness struck because of the distances between farms and settlements.
Soon a movement was begun to secure medical aid for the area. The Women’s Institutes played an important role in the development of the areas and it was they who undertook to bring medical personnel here. Mrs. Nancy Neil, public health convener for the Sunset Prairie W.I., took steps to have a nurse come into the area. She began to correspond with the Red Cross in 1930, and through her efforts on behalf of the community the Red Cross sent in Miss Nancy Dunn in 1931.
Miss Dunn was originally from England where she was a First Lieutenant in World War I. She then moved to Toronto and on to Vancouver continuing her medical career along the way. From there she arrived at Sunset Prairie at age 42 and began her duties there. She boarded for a year and a half with Mrs. C. Hind while she traveled throughout the countryside tending the sick. Though she was sent in especially to visit the schools, preventing disease and checking on sanitation and general health, she took on whatever health problems there were in the area. She covered the entire Peace River Block on her rounds — from Pouce Coupe to Rolla, from Arras to East Pouce, and all points between. She used whatever transportation was available and she went in all types of weather at all times of day.
Her salary was paid by the Red Cross who also paid her expenses and for her supplies. But she was responsible for her own transportation. In the beginning she was provided with a saddle horse by Jessie Hind, and soon afterwards, in the winter of 1932, she bought a cutter and team of horses out of her own salary. One of the settlers painted a red cross on the cutter and this cutter became the symbol of relief for the people and it portrayed the courage and dedication of the driver. The government soon was made to realize the scope of Nancy’s work and 1½ years later they provided her with a car. By then she was known and endeared by all who knew her. She was made of that special fiber akin to frontiersmen and there was nothing she wouldn’t tackle. It can be safely said that she was the beginning of the Peace River Health Unit. She had begun what others were to expand into a countrywide health service in preventive care, with specialized clinics and regular examinations and treatment.
In 1937 Nancy Dunn was transferred to Fort Nelson and from there she went to Telegraph Creek where she used a dog team to get around. Later she married Mr. Bert Roddis, whom she met and knew while she was in Pouce Coupe. He was there as Government Agent and he was involved in community affairs there. His first wife was a charter member of the Women’s Auxiliary in 1936. Mr. Roddis was working in Teslin, Yukon at the time of the courtship and marriage.
Nancy Dunn retired at about age 70 and she and her husband moved to Salt Spring Island on the coast, where in 1963 she was still alive and well.
The following impression of Miss Dunn’s school inspections was written by Mrs. Gething for presentation at a school concert when Nancy was thought to be unable to appear, as scheduled, due to road conditions. Just as this was about to be recited, who should “blow in” but Nancy herself. She insisted on hearing it, and laughed heartily.