When word spread around Bowen Island that its beloved co-owner of Cates Medicine Centre Pharmacy, Bud Massender, was being nominated for a BC Pharmacy Association award, the letters of support started piling in. Everyone from health-care colleagues to fellow choir members, business owners, church leaders and, of course, long-term residents and customers wrote to share their love and appreciation for Massender.
“Bowen is a very unique place,” he says. “That speaks as much to what Bowen’s done for us as what we’ve done for it. Bowen is absolutely different from anywhere else in the world. People are interested in what’s going on in each other’s lives; that’s pretty infectious.”
Massender and his wife Nan first arrived on Bowen 25 years ago, fulfilling a long-held dream of living and working on an island. After owning a successful pharmacy in Fort Langley for 18 years and raising three sons, the couple sold their store in search of their lives’ next chapter. Following several years of locum work and a short stint in Sidney, BC, eventually an opportunity arose in 1991 to open up Bowen Island’s first-ever pharmacy.
After a few short months running a small dispensary underneath the island’s pub, the Massenders had the opportunity to move into a brand new building in one of the island’s central retail squares. Massender recalls the transition was a bit rocky at first. Because the island had never had a pharmacy before, locals were used to filling their prescriptions on the nearby North Shore.
“Prescription volume was about 10-12 a day,” Massender chuckles, recalling their slow, early days in business. Within just a few short years, however, business picked up as the Massenders reached out to their community in many ways – joining choirs, sponsoring Little League teams, organizing weekly community badminton practices and befriending a growing number of customers.
“In what seemed like no time at all, they established themselves as an integral part of Bowen Island life,” says pharmacy employee Elaine Loree. “Bud is one of the kindest and most caring persons I have had the privilege of knowing. It would seem that there is no single individual or group on Bowen that has not been touched by Bud’s generosity.”
Amidst the proclamations of Massender’s compassion and dedication is a common thread of his outstanding service to the community. Whenever an urgent need arises, Massender doesn’t hesitate to open up shop at all hours of the night – dispensing emergency medication at 3 a.m., providing diapers for a visiting mother late on a Friday night and, most famously, opening up on Christmas Day so a young family could capture their baby’s first Christmas on film.
“Time without number, Bud has responded to people in response to their need, with no thought to his own convenience,” says Reverend Shelagh MacKinnon.
“He would not hesitate to open the pharmacy in an emergency to help us out,” adds Norma Dallas, owner of Bowen Island Marina. “He has provided our island with excellent service and always with kind understanding.”
To Massender, this is simply life on Bowen. “There is a really thin line between being in business and being part of the community – you have to be both and that’s part of the enjoyment of it.”
While Massender, who has been practicing pharmacy for more than 50 years, flirted with retirement just over a decade ago – “I wasn’t quite ready to retire after all; I got tired of walking the dog” – the long-serving pharmacist is thoroughly enjoying his last years of pharmacy before retiring permanently.
Currently working part-time, Massender is eager to see health-care services grow on Bowen Island, as its population continues to surge. Most recently, Massender served as president for a local committee working to develop a full-service medical clinic on the island, helping to bring more permanent services to islanders like he did 25 years ago.
“It certainly is very nice to be recognized as having made a contribution,” Massender says, reflecting on his life on Bowen. “It’s a wonderful place to end my career.”