It is with deep sorrow that Pathways says goodbye to one of its hero’s, Cheryl Zipper, a past president, who passed away peacefully in her sleep after a heroic fight with cancer.
Her journey has been a noble one, with cherished family, friends and loved ones by her side. Those who knew Cheryl will recall her courage, empathy and determination to share her story with others. Cheryl helped guide families across BC to advocate effectively for their loved ones with a serious mental illness, helping families find their voice and their way through the labyrinth of mental health services.
The success of Pathways’ “Family to Family” education program, is a testament to her leadership, purpose and commitment to helping others. She worked with universities, high schools and community to provide “First Hand Stories” that shed light on mental illness, reduced stigma and raised awareness. In her role as Pathways’ President, Cheryl led with insight, care and a vision to collaborate and connect with the whole community.
On a personal level, Cheryl’s joy, determination, love, dedication and grace has been an inspiration. Cheryl had the delight of seeing her daughter, Dominique marry this past summer at their family home. Cheryl is survived by her loving family: beloved husband Peter, son Sterling and daughter Dominique.
In honour of Cheryl, the family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Pathways SMIS here in her memory, a legacy Cheryl would cherish. You can leave a note for Cheryl or anyone you love when making a donation and it will be posted on the virtual Christmas Tree.
On behalf of Pathways, the board and staff would like to wish you all a safe holiday season and we’re looking forward to connecting with you all in 2021.
Don PavlovichDonate In Memory
It has been 8 years since I started volunteering at Pathways and met Cheryl Zipper. It didn’t take long after meeting for us to become fast friends. We easily bounced ideas off each other and inspired each other in moving projects forward for the society.
Cheryl was instrumental in making change at the Board level, kept numerous projects all running at the same time and inspired others to volunteer while continuing to assist them in their journey. With support from her family, she put in an extraordinary amount of volunteer time to the Board, school projects, the Family-to-Family education program and much more.
She was my go to person for anything Pathways. But more than that she was the person I would pick up the phone to share my life stories with. To my friend and mentor, I miss you Cheryl 💕.
Lisa StringleDonate In Memory
Cheryl was determined to deliver the best education and support to families across the lower mainland.
Pathways is a unique example of a living, loving organism of families helping families. It’s DNA resides in the experiences of families navigating the labyrinth of mental health services. We arrive at Pathways’ doorstep often lost, without hope, searching for answers and it is here that we find family members giving back, willing to share their experience in the hope of helping someone else. Cheryl was one of those remarkable family leaders, determined to help others through education, leadership and collaboration. A remarkable light touched by so many.
As a dedicated Board member, Board chair, as the Chair of the education committee, instructor and coordinator for Pathways many Family-to-Family teachers, First Hand Stories presenters, as educator and ambassador for local schools, universities and communities across the lower mainland, her legacy has left her mark and she will be missed by many. Peter, her loving husband, tells me he would find Cheryl surrounded by Pathways binders as early as 7 in the morning and well after he retired late a night.
There are too many of you here today to name, who have been touched by Cheryl. You experienced her impact, both as a participant in the education programs she led but also as a leader herself. Her co-coordinator, Lisa Stringle walked side by side with Cheryl, providing in my opinion the best leadership in education in BC.
I recall, as an ambassador and Board Chair, Cheryl arranged for a meeting with the Director for Vancouver Coastal Health. When she arrived at the Director’s office, the Director’s first words were “ I want you to know that there is no money.” Cheryl was surprised, and replied that that was not why she was there, rather to ask how Pathways might be able to help with the challenges mental health services face. Cheryl and I connected deeply on the wisdom of education and collaboration.
Today at this AGM I am putting out a call in memory of this remarkable woman, to the many who have been served by Cheryl’s dedication and leadership, to find a way to give back. Pathways is calling for families to volunteer as F2F teachers, families to help run the support groups and families to provide the one to one support so desperately needed. Training is offered and you will not be alone. This living organism of families helping families needs you. And if you can’t find your way to help through your experience and volunteer time, then consider digging deep to provide a financial support to Pathways sustainability. This unique example of a living loving organism of families helping families can not be sustained without you.
In loving memory of Cheryl Zipper, mother, leader, teacher, trainer and advocate.
Nancy FordDonate In Memory
When Cheryl walked into the first night of Family to Family class it was obvious that she was a special person. She was thoughtful and quietly determined to find the answers she was looking for her family. It soon became apparent that she might be a very valuable member of the society.
Cheryl excelled teaching other families through her own deepening understanding, experience and compassion. She was trusted and able to inspire hope. She was able to help a lot of people. In fact, Cheryl was one of the most composed and positive people I have ever known even in the harshest of circumstances.
When the leadership of the society began transitioning she agreed be the president and brought with her a new spirit of cooperation and outreach within the community. The society benefitted sustantially with new connections, increased visibility and grant money for program development. She was selfless with her time and energy while making it all look effortless.
When her term as president was complete, Cheryl agreed to chair the Education program. Another very demanding volunteer role that she organized, managed, coordinated and continued to refine and develop. Cheryl was adamant about her commitments and dedicated to excellence in everything she did no matter the demands she was under. The society could rest assured with Cheryl at the helm and their key program continued to flourish and grow.
During the final critical transition period of the Society, Cheryl again stepped in with a firm hand as interim president to guide the society to safe shores. Her strength and fortitude were in full display with complete support and gratitude from the Board.
While her accomplishments were so impressive, it was our relationships with her which we remember with such gratitude. I remember receiving a message from her at 7:30 one spring morning after a difficult late night board meeting. She just had to stop in the middle of her early morning kayak in Deep Cove to let me know how much she appreciated my contribution the night before.
Cheryl was the kind of person that inspired and led with grace. The kind of person that you might just follow to the end of the earth if she asked. But then, she would probably do the same for you too.
She has left a lasting legacy and a strong foundation for the Society and the many many people she has helped along the way. We will treasure her memory and are deeply grateful to her and her family.
Janice LilleyDonate In Memory
Cheryl was my F2F teacher back in 2010 right after my husband had his first episode, and was in hospital. Though the class, I learnt so much about mental illness, but most of all Cheryl herself was a source of calm, empathy, resilience. At that time, I was overwhelmed, to say the least, by what had fallen on our family. The experience was like being hit by a tsunami. How do we survive it? Do we/I have the strength to pick up the pieces? I wondered how I would ever be whole again. Here was Cheryl who had gone through all this and much more, and she seemed whole, she survived, and thrived. How did she do it? I remember her telling me it will get better, and it’s okay to be in this state. I had no words to describe what I was going through. And she told me about her struggles at the beginning and it sounded just like mine. Somehow that helped calm me. It was the start of climbing out of chaos and confusion.
Cheryl had been on her journey longer, and it was her example, that helped me through the initial rawness of crisis. Co-leading the F2F course gave me back some of my “wholeness”. Cheryl trained me. She inspired me to move along and build resources for coping, and by example I moved to advocacy within Pathways, VCH, and the Mental Health community. She was my guiding light.
Cheryl had dedicated her self to NSSS (Pathways), and I had the privilege of getting to know her best, through our work together in education, the F2F classes, putting together and presenting the UBC workshop, and during her term as president of NSSS (Pathways). As president she was organized, focused, level-headed, a problem solver. I admired her ability to see an issue from all sides, and come to understand what is needed, and moved people forward.
As an educator, she was an initiator and a program visionary. She initiated the school partnership program that educates high school students on mental illness. She worked tirelessly coordinating this program, giving talks to the schools. We shared an interest in promoting the importance of education and the power of knowledge. We often mused that health professionals who care and treat our loved-ones need to learn about serious mental illness, and that effects it has for their families. That it would be so beneficial to reach out to medical students perhaps at UBC Faculty of Medicine.
Sometime later, I remember Cheryl and I were at a Breakfast Lecture on the “new” VCH Family Engagement Policy (one of a series of breakfast talks organized by Dr. Chakraborty, head of the HOpe Community Psychiatric Services), we met a UBC medical student. She was curious about us, and we struck up a conversation. I could see the glimmer in Cheryl’s eyes, as she told her we’re from NSSS (Pathways) an organization that supports families who have a family member with series mental illness. The Medical Student got very interested, and said she didn’t know about the supporting role of families of her patients. She said, non of her colleagues/fellow students knew or were taught anything about family perspectives. Cheryl and I got very excited. I knew Cheryl, she wouldn’t let this opportunity pass by. She had a vision of creating a workshop to educate Med Students about serious mental illness from a family perspective.
In her usual way Cheryl took this to task, and reached out to the UBC Department of Medicine. She wrote to them, called them, and finally got a meeting with the Department Head of Education of Medicine who was interested in having NSSS (Pathways) present a workshop for their students. She invited me to work with her in writing up a presentation/workshop. She had a vision of how this would go, and lead us to realize it on paper. We had a lot of fun writing and putting the workshop together. She coordinated this workshop and we had presented it several times. Attending this workshop is now a graduation requirement for their Occupational Therapist program. Pathways was able to present the workshop via zoom this year, just before Cheryl passed away.
We have lost a great friend, a leader, an initiator and a visionary. For me Cheryl was my guiding light.
May her light continue to burn brightly in all of us.
Respectfully submitted, Connie Chung.Donate In Memory
When I think of Cheryl I immediately think of her warmth and compassion. But she was also fierce in her battle for justice for the mentally ill. Her weapon in this battle was education, truth and kindness. Her mission was to effect change.
I had the honour of working with her and seeing her in action. Her school presentation, which she developed, was the best. When she told the story of her son’s illness, the students were held in rapt attention. I remember at one school she said “ my son actually went to this high school. He didn’t have many friends, but the students were always really kind to him. And I was so appreciative of that. And I guess that’s what I want you to understand. To just be kind to people with mental illness.” You could hear the sound of hearts breaking.
The loss of her is great and heavy. She was a great shining light in the struggles against stigma and for justice and fair treatment of persons with serious mental illness. She has left a legacy of hope and understanding. We’d all do well to remember her message to just be kind.
Cindy BeatchDonate In Memory
I met Cheryl in 2015 when she was a fellow board member at Pathways. She did so much for Pathways Education goals and in 2016 she was my teacher, along with Lisa, when I took the F2F teacher training. When it came to the portion of the course that dealt with empathy, I fondly recall her announcing that it was her favourite class to teach. She had an enormous impact on my understanding of my son’s mental illness and I know she had that same impact on countless more. She was an amazing teacher and human being who exuded not only empathy but kindness, intelligence and beauty. She was an all round class act and will be sorely missed.
Sincerely, Patricia MurrayDonate In Memory