A long career in fitness was rewarding enough for Chemainus’ Jill Amy, but it also came with the perks of individual awards and recognition for a job well done.
Amy, who turns 62 in September, decided to retire as of Dec. 30 at the end of 2020, partly because it was time to move on after her many years at the former Cowichan Aquannis Centre and later working at the new Cowichan Aquatic Centre in Duncan, but also from a desire to turn over the jobs to the next generation.
“There’s a lot of young people in the community,” she said. “It’s time for someone young to get a good job, a pension and benefits and all the things that go along with it.”
Amy considers herself fortunate to have enjoyed the fruits of her labours for so long and see the benefits to the community. It was always a pleasure for her to go to work. At one point, there were up to 70 drop-in classes a week offered in Duncan.
“We ran a really busy program that met the needs in the Cowichan Valley,” she said.
Retirement life is already proving to be an adjustment after such a busy schedule, but Amy and partner Garry Bolger can be frequently seen pounding the pavement briskly around Chemainus streets with their walking regimen to keep fit. Another of her longtime co-workers, Lonnie Syme, also recently retired and, combined with COVID restrictions, it hasn’t quite been the same for the group of employees and friends who devoted so much of their energies together.
“I miss the instructors, I miss the patrons, the interactions – we all do,” Amy confided. “I have to be honest.”
But she has great memories of all those years when she was aquatic supervisor and worked in reception at the old pool, and filled the role of fitness programmer at the new pool.
“For me, North Cowichan is a great organization as an employer. They were very good.”
Winning awards such as the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association programmer of the year in 2010 was certainly a highlight.
To be considered the top of her field made an impression on Amy. “I was blown away, actually,” she said at the time.
But even all the little things along the way meant a lot to her that she thinks about often. Amy also had a long tenure as a volunteer synchronized swimming coach and brought awareness of the sport to the valley that had never been exposed to it before. She also coached her own daughter Amber.
Amy was born in Edmonton and took her talents to Ross Sheppard High School there, an athletic school equipped with a 50-metre pool, football stadium and a top-notch track.
“I was pretty fortunate my parents were very athletic,” she added.
Her dad ski jumped and both her parents were into speed skating.
Amy happened to find her niche initially in synchronized swimming, starting at the age of 10. She competed at the national and international levels.
Her duet partner at the time, Barb Brophy, just happens to live in Ladysmith and they won a silver medal at the 1976 Swiss Internationals as well as a gold for their part in the team event.
After high school, Amy worked for Toronto Dominion Bank for 13 years. She left Edmonton for Kindersley, Sask. in 1982-83 and put the town on the map with her successful coaching of the synchronized swimming program.
When Amy came to the Cowichan Valley in 1988, there was no synchronized swimming program here at all but she slowly built it up with her daughter and about three other kids at the beginning.
“When I came I started coaching right away,” she said. “That’s how I got my foot in the door at the pool.”
While her coaching standards brought so much glory to the synchronized swimmers she recruited, Amy’s career in recreation took off and she’s proud of all the accomplishments along the way.
She came to live in Chemainus in 1992. Her son Chad graduated from Chemainus Secondary School in 1998 and daughter Amber a year later.
Jill Amy was always quick to credit others on staff for the success of fitness programs. She also worked hard to extend opportunities beyond the Community Centre in the promotion of physical activity.
“I’m a person who takes things to heart,” she pointed out. “If someone says you need to reach out to the community, we did.”
That included grants to take programs to the kids in the schools during lunch hours, providing experiences for those who might never have been exposed to fitness otherwise.
The establishment of an indoor fitness gym at Fuller Lake Arena proved to be beneficial for those who didn’t have to travel to Duncan for programs before last year resulted in switching gears due to COVID for some outdoor fitness at Fuller Lake as well as running outdoor summer camps for kids at Fuller Lake Park and Kinsmen Beach in Chemainus.