Bette Durrant with Atira’s Janice Abbott. (Contributed photo)

Staunch South Surrey transition-house supporter remembered

Durrant House namesake, Bette Durrant, died Oct. 24

Bette Durrant spent more than two decades giving her time to make a difference in the lives of women and children who were fleeing violence.

With her husband, Bob – who died in 2014 – the longtime Peninsula resident sorted donations for what was originally Atira Transition House, organizing the usables then bringing them to the South Surrey house itself, where she would carefully box and label them.

“The garage was shelves and boxes, and extremely neat and organized,” Janice Abbott, chief executive officer of Atira Women’s Resource Society, recalled Thursday.

“She was there almost every day, I think, dropping stuff off and sorting.”

But Durrant also knew her limits, Abbott said, in remembering the dedicated volunteer.

“She knew her heart would break… if she knew all the stories of the women and children.”

Durrant died on Oct. 24. She was 92.

Abbott shared memories of the senior with Peace Arch News just two days before a memorial service was held last weekend for the “absolute character” who continued to give of her time until she was “close to 80 and maybe even 80.”

“It left a huge hole for all of us when she finally laid down her sorting hands,” Abbott said. “She was just so diligent, there every day making sure everything was tickety-boo.”

Around six Atira staff had planned to attend the service, which was held at Church of the Holy Trinity in White Rock on Saturday.

Abbott said Durrant’s volunteer efforts at Atira began “five or six years” before Abbott herself started with the society in 1992 – and around the same time Atira Transition House opened. In addition to donation pickups and the sorting, she and Bob would give women who needed to flee or wanted to return to their families rides to the airport and ferries, Abbott said.

When it came time to rename the transition house – it became confusing to have the house and society bear the same name, Abbott explained – the choice was easy.

“It was never a competition,” Abbott said, adding that the suggestion of Durrant House “was immediately and unanimously agreed” on by the board.

Bob Durrant, she noted in a post following his death, was a pioneer – although he “never knew it and might not have admitted it” – “in the men’s movement to end men’s violence against women and children.”

Now 31 years open, Durrant House is a 10-bed facility that continues to support women and their children who are fleeing abusive situations.

Abbott recalled that Bette Durrant often spoke of wanting to make a difference in the lives of women who experienced violence.

“Part of that was a recognition of her own privilege,” Abbott said. “Up until the bitter end, Bette would tell us stories about how awesome her marriage was.”

The secret to that, Durrant told Abbott, was “a five o’clock cocktail and M.A.S.H.”

Abbott said she and a number of others at Atira kept in touch with Durrant after she “retired” from volunteering, visiting from time to time over the years, and offering support at her husband’s funeral.

Abbott said Durrant was “a huge support” to her personally, as well.

“One of those women who, clearly, for whatever reason, decided she believed in me,” she said.

“She meant a lot to all of us.”

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