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A life filled with adventure and travel

In this edition of Journeys, we look at the life of Sheila Wray, a traveler with purpose who passed away at The Elliott at the age of 86

Shelia Wray had a passion for travel and immersing herself in new experiences.

On Aug. 30, the Guelph woman passed away at the Elliott Community Centre. She was 86.

“Sheila had a zest for travel. We both loved to travel, but she was maybe a little more adventurous than I was,” said Wray’s husband of 61 years, Roger.

“We went on six cruises. We spent 18 years travelling as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska, east to Newfoundland, west to Big Sur, California and south to Key West Florida. It was all in our small motor home, a 20-foot self driven motorhome. It had everything we needed.”

Wray just loved to travel, visiting Machu Picchu and Galapagos Island as well as Churchill, Manitoba, to see the polar bears.

But besides making family memories, Wray often travelled with a purpose.

“She enjoyed her trips to Guatemala, with a team, to help build schools,” Roger said.

“Helping out there all came about from her hairdresser. He was talking about building schools there, with a group, and this really appealed to Sheila. She looked into it further and we both ended up going the first year.”

Wray visited Guatemala five more times after that.

“She was completely engrossed with the idea. She enjoyed it and found it such a worthwhile cause. She wanted to help.”

For many years, prior to starting a family, Sheila was a dedicated registered nurse.

"Sheila was born in the Peterborough Civic Hospital. That’s also where she graduated in 1959. There was a nursing college there at that time,” Wray said.

“Her family was living in Millbrook, Ontario. In high school, they moved to Fenelon Falls. She went to the same high school that I was going to. She was older than I was. We weren’t in the same grade. I saw her there.”

But the couple did not start off as high school sweethearts at first.

“I was born and raised on a farm outside of Fenelon Falls. My mother was in hospital in Peterborough, and as my luck would have it, it was the same hospital that Sheila was nursing in,” Roger said.

“And that’s how we became reacquainted.”

Roger says his wife had a love for nursing and looking after others.

“After we were married, I got a job in Ottawa and so we moved there. Sheila was nursing in Lindsay at that point. She got a job at Ottawa Civic Hospital and became the head nurse in the birthing unit,” Roger said.

Wray was the proud and loving mother of Lisa and Danny Wray. She was the cherished grandmother of Brittany and Devin Choban.

“Once we started having a family, she decided that she wanted to be a stay-at-home mother," Roger said.

The couple moved to Guelph in 1974, and were members of Trinity United Church.

“There was group of 'boat people' that came to Guelph from Vietnam. Trinity United had sponsored a family which ended up being about 11 people in all,” Roger said.

Vietnamese refugees were known globally as the ‘boat people’, who fled Vietnam by boat and ship following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

“Sheila became the healthcare coordinator for that family.  She was responsible for coordinating their healthcare visits and appointments to help get them settled here in Guelph,” Roger said.

“And one of those boys still lives in Guelph. He visited Sheila regularly. He was always grateful to her.”

Wray was very artistic and immersed herself in many creative talents including painting, sewing, and craft making.  

“She loved gardening and had a green thumb. She was also a member of the Guelph Needlecraft Guild. She could do just about anything in the way of quilting, knitting, crocheting and crafts,” Roger said.

“She made all kinds of things. She made our daughter’s wedding dress and clothes for her grandchildren.”

Wray loved scrapbooking and belonged to a group, Freedom Memories Scrapbooking in Guelph.

“Sheila was always busy. She would spend countless hours scrapbooking,” Roger said.

“I went through all of her albums, and there were more than 60 of them."

In February, 2016, Wray suffered a serious stroke.

"We were planning to go to Florida the next day in our motor home. But Sheila went to St. Joseph's Health Centre for rehab, and then from there, into long-term care," Roger said.

"We are very grateful to the Elliott Community and for the care that Sheila received there."

For Roger and Sheila, life really was an adventure and a road best travelled together.

"We certainly did a lot of travelling together. And for Sheila, Guatemala was probably one of her favourite places just because of what she achieved in helping others in the world. That really appealed to her,” Roger said.  

“She really did impact so many people.”