Derek Reimer, VHS 1965 A Family Legacy in Education and History
by Linda Baker, VHS 1969
“Vic High did all of us a powerful lot of good.”
These simple but compelling words are a testament to Derek Reimer’s long-standing family connection to Vic High, and part of the reason he continues to support the Vic High Alumni with his time and his donations. “Vic High is part of my family history,” says Derek. “Our family has been at Vic High since the nineteen-teens.”
But that’s not the only reason Derek is so committed to Vic High. “Public education is so important for the economy, for our democracy, for our social values,” he goes on, “and is a much better education model than private schools. Supporting public education helps level the playing field.”
Derek may have preferred summer and winter school breaks to actually being in class at Vic High, but still he liked school. “I was a happy student,” says Derek. “I had no negative experiences. Most of the teachers were great and the rest were tolerable,” he laughs. He took advantage of almost all the sports offered, and was on every team except basketball. That included soccer, rugby, track and field, and volleyball. “We won the Senior Boys Volleyball BC Championship that year,” says Derek, “and I was given the MVP and Outstanding Setter awards.” Not to limit his options, Derek also sang in the choir and played percussion in the Vic High Band. “I had a starring role in one performance,” he remembers, “playing the hot water bottle like a cymbal.” We’re not quite sure where he found the time to also represent Vic High as a member of its Reach for the Top team, the CBC-broadcast academic quiz show for high school students.
After graduation, Derek earned a B.Sc. in Geography at UVic, then a M.A. in Historical Geography at Queen’s University. “That’s where I met my wife, Maxine,” says Derek, “standing in line to register for our Masters degrees. A year later we were married, and had survived a whirlwind year where both of us earned our Masters’ degrees in very short order.” Maxine’s degrees were all in Psychology, and part of her work career was spent as a school psychologist in School District 61 Victoria.
“One of my summer jobs had been at the BC Archives,” explains Derek, “in their Oral History department. A job came up there so I applied and got it, and spent 20 years at BC Archives. I loved it…a dream job, because I got paid to pursue my natural interest in history and all things local.” He became head of the Sound and Moving Image division at BC Archives, then head of Policy and Planning, and eventually developed an interest in Government Records Management. “I know it’s probably quite dry to most people,” says Derek. But that experience took him to various government ministries, and the last five years of his working career were in the Ministry of Health overseeing Records Management, the My Health Library, and the ministry’s internal Web Services.
Retirement, though, seems to be another ‘dream job’ for Derek. He and Maxine have travelled extensively, completing 35 home exchanges in eight countries on three continents. Back home, once or twice a week he helps ensure Vic High alumni are remembered by watching the obituaries, searching the Alumni’s digitized Camosuns, and passing information along to his 1965 classmate, Dawn Eby Quast, who updates the website from her home in Prince Rupert.
And who are all those family members who went to Vic High? “The first was Max Maynard,” says Derek. “He was my great-uncle, a Canadian painter and English Literature professor, and the Camosun Editor at Vic High when he graduated, in 1920.” The next generation to attend Vic High included Derek’s mother Faith, VHS 1942, and her siblings Frank, VHS 1945, Connie, VHS 1945, and Felicity, VHS 1947, as well as several cousins. Then came Connie’s kids, two of Faith’s kids (Derek, VHS 1965, and Catherine, VHS 1967), and then Derek’s son, David, now a high school teacher in Grand Forks.
Derek is particularly proud of his mother’s legacy at Vic High, the Victoria High School Archives and Museum. “She was a homemaker with a BA in History,” says Derek, “who decided to go back to school. She did her student teaching at Vic High while earning a Teaching Certificate and returned to Vic High in September 1967 to teach Social Studies, History and English.” But it was her dedication to setting up the Vic High Archives that made her famous. In 1975, Vic High was gearing up for the 1976 Centennial Celebrations. Principal Duncan Lorimer asked Faith to set up the now award-winning Vic High Archives. “Stuff was spread around the whole school,” says Derek, “and she meticulously accessioned everything brought to her and set up the Archives on shelving built in the Fairey Tech Woodworking shop.” Peter Smith, VHS 1949, and former UVic Classics Professor, was writing Vic High’s history, Come Give A Cheer, so records had to be organized and researched for the book. Faith died in 2010, but not before attending a tea given by the Archives in her honour where the Archives room was officially named the Faith Reimer Room. “That brought her great pleasure in the last weeks of her life and she was very proud of that,” says Derek.
Derek can’t wait to visit the new Victoria High Archives & Museum, Faith Reimer Room, and to get back into that impressive Vic High lobby. Climbing those granite stairs from Grant Street to the new second-floor Heritage Hallway and main lobby will no doubt continue to reinforce his happy Vic High memories. From Maynard on down, educators figure prominently in Derek’s family, including his father, Dave Reimer, a long-time teacher at Oak Bay High and other schools. It’s no wonder he has such respect for public education, and particularly Vic High.