Visionary closes circle on PRH expansion

Charles and Irene Armstrong, seen here prior to Irene passing away in June, made a major donation to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s campaign to provide medical equipment for the Penticton Regional Hospital expansion.

Turn the clock back some 18 years and Charles Armstrong was front and centre in the early planning for a major expansion of Penticton Regional Hospital.

This week, with wife Irene — who passed away June 12 shortly after their 66th wedding anniversary — he closed the circle on that dream with a major donation to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s $20- million campaign to provide the medical equipment for the PRH project.

Charles was a member of the founding Interior Health board in 2001 and shared in the decision to establish PRH as a full-service acute care hospital to serve the expected population growth in the South Okanagan and Similkameen.

He attended the official sod-turning ceremony for the hospital expansion in July 2016 and was among the dignitaries who attended the recent official opening of the new Tower.

“To see the plan become a reality is really very satisfying,” he said.

Born in Nelson, Charles went to school in Creston and Trail, before earning a Bachelor of Commerce degree at UBC. Upon graduation, he joined Trans-Canada Airlines (now Air Canada) in Winnipeg and, after a transfer to Montreal, joined Canadian National Railways where he served in the executive ranks for 35 years in numerous postings across Canada.

Charles and Irene had met in Montreal, married in Toronto, and raised three children – Anne and John, who are both residents of Penticton, and Robert who lives in Denver, Colo.

Charles took early retirement in 1982 and relocated with Irene to Penticton to be close to his father, a former railwayman on the Kettle Valley Railway.

After retiring, Charles’ talents were still much in demand. He consulted for Canada Post, CN Rail, and the World Bank with assignments in Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Bolivia. He was also deeply involved in both the local community and at the provincial level. He was a member of the BC Gas board and Chairman of the BC Automobile Association.

In Penticton, he chaired the city’s newly-formed independent Economic Development Commission in the 1980s, served on the Penticton Art Gallery board while construction was underway on the new gallery next to Okanagan Lake, performed tourism studies for the City, was a director and chair of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen, a Fellow of Okanagan College, and a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2012.

“I think I’ve enjoyed a very interesting and personally rewarding career,” he said.

Construction of Phase Two of the PRH expansion, including a major upgrade to the Emergency Department. is now getting underway and will be completed in 2021.

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