Some people come into this world and make a difference. Deb Bramley was one such person.
Gone in body, Deb leaves behind a significant imprint on our community and gives us a legacy of grace and mercy. Treat others as if they were your own. Speak to each other and with respect. If you see something, do something. Teamwork ALWAYS and PS never, ever, give up hope.
I feel privileged to live next door to this little spitfire and her beloved family, and this is my remembrance of Deb Bramley.
Many summers ago, I was sitting on a hot driveway, watching my kids play with their cousins when a slightly older couple and their three kids walked by. One of the children, a little blonde pixie, was about my child’s age, and the other two were quite a bit older than mine. Surprised, I recall blurting out a question about the spread of the ages. They laughed, and we chatted.
In this brief encounter, I felt their tangible joy for life and love for one another; spread or not, they had been given the three most incredible kids, and their hearts were full. Unknowingly, years later, we would become neighbours.
More than a decade after our initial encounter, I would be writing about Deb and the fiercely important lessons she and her family taught our community and me.
A few years after we had moved next door in August of 2012, I received an email warning me of an incident the night before. A thief had rummaged through my neighbour’s vehicles, and Deb wanted us to know so we could protect ourselves. “I just get so tired of all this stuff that goes on.” Deb said.
Thankful for the warning, we sent emails back and forth discussing what to do. She said she had slept out on her front porch the night after it happened but didn’t catch anyone. She suggested she might take a chance and sleep in the car but admitted that seemed scary.
I had limited capacity to help and so offered my husband as a neighbourhood night watchman. This offer seemed like a good idea, but we didn’t know if it would work. In the end, she marched up to district hall and brought home stuff to start a block watch. No one had wanted to join a block watch a few years prior, but maybe now would be the time. I was her co-captain on paper only. She did all of the work.
I can’t tell you what happened with the block watch between 2012 and 2016, only that Deb did everything. She was a tiny yet persistent force, demanding that people wake up and start paying attention to our community so that we could support one another. When a thief broke into their vehicles again, this must have been the last straw.
In 2016 a new Facebook group, “Take Back Our Community Deep Cove Area,” was created and quickly grew to include 1,300 locals.
The group, which is now named Deep Cove to Lynnmour Crime Watch Page, has close to 2,900 residents and continues to help neighbours watch out for one another. “In September of that year, a town hall meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 200 residents to discuss crime with the North Vancouver RCMP”. It was as if the Cove were awakening from slumber as neighbours began to notice and speak up about what they were seeing.
Things were starting to move, and yet it wasn’t all easy.
Deb spent countless hours moderating the Facebook group keeping a watchful eye for disrespectful behaviour. In the initial stages, she constantly reminded members that this group was to report criminal or potential activity only.
Her efforts to keep the intended purpose of the group clearly paid off. She directed traffic to other Facebook groups, which she created to support community needs and engagement, and in the end, she administered multiple groups with over 7300 members.
Deb demanded respect online and in person. If you stepped out of line, she would call you out on your behaviour, and though a little scary at times, you knew it was because she cared about you. On social media, inappropriate comments and cursing were never allowed and earned you “the boot” if you refused to follow the rules.
She was principled in her values, opinionated about her beliefs, and fiercely protective of her family and her community, which is all of us. Drawn to protect the community, she encouraged teamwork by calling others into service through direct words and encouragement.
For the last eight years of her life, Deb Bramley and her family fought a private battle against cancer. Facing my own struggles, I didn’t want to bother her with questions, and so we lived side by side and rarely spoke of our personal struggles, instead focusing on community concerns.
Maybe this focus was an escape from the reality of what was happening, or perhaps it was a way of coping. Either way, it was the way she chose to live.
With her best friend at her side and few complaints over the years, she persisted in fighting for what she believed in, people, and connection.
KellyAnne Little is a resident of the District of North Vancouver