Former Ladysmith Mayor Kathleen (Kay) Grouhel will be honoured with a historical interpretive sign and poem embedded into concrete along the pathway leading to Transfer Beach.
Grouhel was the first woman to lead Ladysmith as mayor. She was elected in 1964, defeating incumbent mayor Len Ryan who held the position for 17 years. Grouhel was instrumental in the creation of Transfer Beach Park, leading negotiations with Canadian Collieries and Canadian Pacific to purchase the land at lower prices.
She is credited with passing zoning and sewage improvement bylaws that moved the outflow of sewage away from Transfer Beach. Another notable accomplishment was her work to revitalize downtown Ladysmith by planting dogwood trees along the highway and improving the safety of the sidewalks for pedestrians. Her work around developing sidewalks earned her the nickname ‘Concrete Kay’.
She was also the first female president of the Union of BC Municipalities during her term as mayor.
Grouhel served as mayor until 1976. She passed away in 2010 at Victoria General Hospital following complications from a stroke.
Her son, Brian Grouhel, says that the new poem and sign are a great step in acknowledging his mother’s legacy.
“It’s nice to see there’s recognition being given for what she’s done for the town,” he said. “It’s going to be quite nice.”
Brian remembered his mother as being a hard worker who could rally the community together to get work done for Ladysmith.
“She was always independent. She’d set herself goals then she’d go and do them. When she was mayor she’d find goals she wanted, whether it was starting up the sewage plant, revitalizing downtown, or doing the beach. She’d figure out a way to go and accomplish that,” he said.
During the council discussions about approving Grouhel’s sign and poem at Transfer Beach, councillor Rob Johnson said that Grouhel’s legacy deserves more recognition.
“I am 100 percent in favour of former mayor Kay Grouhel. She was one of the best mayors we’ve ever had… I think this effort is too small and inappropriate to represent what she has done,” Johnson said. “I want to see appropriate recognition and I don’t think this is quite befitting her status.”
Johnson went on to contrast Grouhel with other landmarks like Frank Jameson Community Centre and Bob Stuart Park which are both named for former mayors.
Mayor Aaron Stone noted that there is outstanding direction from council to seek further opportunities to honour the legacy of Grouhel.
“This is a nice way to begin that journey of honouring Mayor Grouhel,” Stone said.
Council voted to include $8,000 in the 2022-2026 Financial Plan for the installation of the sign and poem.