Debbie Froese – mother, grandmother, businesswoman, and wife of Township Mayor Jack Froese – has died.
She was 66, and passed away early Thursday, Jan. 9. at Langley Memorial Hospital. A celebration of life has been scheduled for 2 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Christian Life Assembly, 21277 56th Ave.
Despite battling cancer since 2013, Froese had been involved in the community, including being one of the wives of the Mayors’ Wives Tea (now called Thanks for Caring, a Christmas Tea fundraiser) which has been an annual sell-out fundraiser supporting the Langley Christmas Bureau.
She was also a docent for the Langley Centennial Museum as well as volunteering for the Aldergrove Soccer Club, Aldergrove Rotary Club, and more.
Jack and Debbie married in 1979. Froese and her husband, Jack, built up J.D. Turkey Farms from an agricultural venture to a popular agritourism operation over many years then handed off day-to-day management to their son, Jason, aided by their daughters, Jenny and Marilyn. She was also grandmother to nine.
“Our hearts are with the family and with Debbie,” said Jean Schaffer, the wife of former City mayor Ted Schaffer.
Jean worked closely with Debbie on the Mayors’ Wives Teas.
“She was a very, very kind woman,” Schaffer commented.
Schaffer added that Debbie enjoyed giving back to the community and is so sad that she lost her battle with cancer.
“She did fight so hard,” she added.
Many in the community came forward to support her in her battle with cancer which started almost seven years ago.
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At that time, chest pains, at first thought to be a heart attack, pointed to a spinal tumour.
“The word ‘cancer’ is very scary,” Debbie said back at a cancer fundraiser in 2015. “Alarming” was a fitting word in Debbie’s case, after she woke up in the middle of the night with chest pain.
“I was thinking I was having a heart attack,” she recalled. “I thought ‘I’m too young to be having a heart attack!’ They believe it was because the tumour was on my spine. It was the nerves on my spine that was ricocheting through my chest.”
It was non-Hodgkins large B-cell lymphoma. Debbie needed a series of chemotherapy treatments to attack the tumour.
Jack said back at the 2014 Relay for Life that the family tried to keep things personal and close. But once word got out, there was a huge amount of support from friends and the community at large. People sent flowers and offered their prayers.
The support helped, as the side-effects from the chemotherapy weren’t much fun, Debbie recounted. She developed mouth sores and stomach cramps at various times, and she had to be very careful not to take even certain herbal remedies, in case they conflicted with her various prescribed medications.
Charlie Fox said often when he was at council meetings, his wife, Diane, would get together for dinner or coffee.
“My wife and Debbie went through their cancer journeys very much at the same time,” Fox said.
As well, the two families socialized. Fox said they all camped together this past year and Diane has been involved in the mayors’ tea committee alongside Debbie.
“She was a real foundation stone in that family,” Fox said. “Her strength and bravery really spoke to the type of individual she was.”
The cancer changed how Debbie saw the world.
“Boy, the trees sure were green, the skies sure were blue,” she said as the guest speaker at the 2014 Relay for Life fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“Everything was a little brighter.”
She said it made her in awe of nature around her and turned her thoughts to her loved ones.
“I was grateful that it was me, not one my children, not one of my elderly parents,” she said.
The Township issued a brief statement Thursday, saying: “It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we inform you of the passing of Debbie Froese, wife of Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to Mayor Froese and his family. We ask that people respect the Froese family’s need for privacy during this difficult time.”
Donations in her memory can be made to the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation or the Langley Hospice Society.