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Haberger remembered as R’view crusader
A community activist and longtime School District 43 math teacher is being remembered as a passionate woman who often sang about what she believed in and worked tirelessly for the protection of the Riverview Hospital lands.
Sue Haberger, 65, died of pancreatic cancer Saturday at home, cared for by members of her family, including daughter Kristina, son Erik, her mother Liz Rowley, cousin Betsy Van Haldren, and friends, such as Ruth Foster, her teaching colleague who shared some of her ideals about saving the environment for future generations.
“She was such, a really, really hard-working person, and she wore her heart on her sleeve for Riverview,” said Coquitlam Coun. Mae Reid, who worked with Haberger on the city’s Riverview Lands Advisory Committee for more than a decade.
Reid said Haberger’s knowledge and passion fuelled the work of the committee, which successfully lobbied the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Union of BC Municipalities to recognize the 244-acre Riverview lands as the possible location for future wellness facilities and research.
This past summer, the province conducted a review of Riverview’s heritage potential, finalizing the Heritage Conservation Plan this winter, and the Heritage Canada Foundation placed Riverview on its list of one of the most endangered heritage sites in the country.
Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge, the committee’s current chair, credited Haberger with helping to raise the profile of the lands in the community with her letter-writing and advocacy through the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society, of which she was a director.
“She was a citizen who wanted to make a difference to the community and one of the things she felt was the importance of Riverview to the community,” Hodge said. “She had a vision for those grounds — saving the trees and the buildings — and it was one of the things she was trying to work towards.”
Haberger taught math at both Centennial and Terry Fox secondary schools, and spent two years at SFU teaching future teachers, according to long-time friend Foster, a Centennial biology teacher who established the Mossom Creek Hatchery in Port Moody. Foster said Haberger was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal Jan. 25 for her community work.
In addition to her career and community achievements, Haberger also had an artistic, creative — not to mention rebellious — side, which her friends and family know best. For example, Haberger first explored the Riverview lands after cutting a hole in the fence that surrounded the property and she founded the singing “protest” group, the Raging Greenies, with her mom and some friends, singing songs about Riverview and other important issues with words she made up to go with popular tunes.
Foster said Haberger wanted Riverview protected so future generations could appreciate the beauty of the property. “If you take a walk in Riverview and experience an unforgettable moment in nature, that’s what she called a Wordsworthian moment,” Foster said.
Haberger also composed a series of seasonal poems for her family called “Susie’s Adventures in Riverview,” describing the time she spent on the property enjoying nature with her children and gathering chestnuts and sleighing.
Haberger, who was predeceased last fall by her husband, Achim, also played the guitar, travelled, often with Foster, to exotic locales, such as Borneo, and was a member of the performing troupe the Breezeway Buddies. With her horse, Foxy, she performed routines with the group at the PNE as recently as last summer.
“She was a teacher and a friend, we learned a lot from her,” Foster said.
Norma Gillespie, a Riverview Horticultural Centre Society founder, said she relied heavily on Haberger for her political insight when the group had to tackle important issues and acknowledged Haberger did many of the jobs of the 21-year-old organization herself.
She will be missed, Gillespie said, noting, “I cannot go up to Finnie’s Garden and not see Sue.”