Mary’s Fresh Start – in the Heart of her Hometown

November 26th, 2021
As she settles into Wisteria Place, after her first move in decades, Mary Okabe marvels at how much it all feels like home 

By Geoff Davies

For 70 years, home for Mary Okabe has been in Steveston, at the same address where she has lived with her mother, father, and family since she was a teen — until just a few weeks ago. 

“There were blackberries growing in our backyard and there were many Japanese families along my street, on Broadway,” says Mary, smiling in between sips of green tea.

“In the wintertime, somebody had to walk ahead of you with a light to see, so that didn’t go into the ditch — but now it’s a bit different!”

Many local families, like Mary’s, made their livings from the sea. 

Many of the men, back then, were fishermen — her father was a carpenter, building boats for them — and many of the women worked in the canneries. So did Mary, for one summer, and her mother too.

That historic wharf is still a short walk away, though much else — in the local community, as well as Mary’s life — has changed.

“It was kind of sad, to sell the house to move in, when at that time I didn’t know anybody,” says Mary, plainly, thinking back to the summer when she became one of the first new residents through the doors of Wisteria Place, at 4388 Garry Street.

Though the move to Wisteria Place was a big one for her, it still felt like a homecoming in some ways. Take, for example, her new neighbours. 

“I can walk to the Buddhist Temple in 10 steps,” Mary says.

As a long-time member of the Sangha of the Steveston Buddhist Temple, Mary and members of her community there have been watching the dream of Wisteria Place take shape in recent years.

Now, that dream is very real, in the form of a modern, welcoming four-storey building with state-of-the-art security and safety features.

“My girlfriend, who I used to travel with, she moved in too, just three days ago,” says Mary. “We both said: it’s better than being on a cruise.”

Newly opened, what you’ll find at Wisteria Place is a small but growing community of people, like Mary, who want to live actively, and socially, without feeling weighed down by the demands of house and home: cleaning, cooking, repairs and upkeep, all while keeping up with their own health and care needs.

“It feels wonderful! I don’t have to do anything,” says Mary, giggling away, “It feels like luxury.” 

And while it was a big change, moving out of the house that’s been home for so long, Mary finds she is now even more close and connected to the people, places and experiences that make Steveston her home. 

“My doctor, my dentist and my bank are all in walking distance,” says Mary.

The historic waterfront, which Mary has seen change so much, is still nearby. She should know: she was just there, with a group of fellow new residents, on an outing to get ice cream.

And even though a lifetime of living next-door to generous fishermen has left her with a discerning taste for fish, Mary says the seafood she has enjoyed so far at Wisteria Place lives up to her standards well.

“It’s good! It’s good!” she laughs. “If it wasn’t, I would tell them.”