Martha Lou Henley

1996 Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts

"I never realized . . . people are afraid to say no to me!" Anyone who has been touched by Martha Lou Henley knows she's not the strong-arm type. It's something intrinsic and deep in her spirit that has been of such benefit to the arts, a quality that's persuaded others to give too.

She is "one of the people who keeps the arts going in Vancouver". It was a love of music that led her to offer her services to the Vancouver Opera in 1980. She became an integral part of an organization which owes many of its successes not only to her generous financial gifts, especially in the underwriting of whole productions, but in the hours and hours of personal time she has given. Thousands of school children have benefited from her help through the Opera's outreach programme. Her patronage has purchased sets, costumes and equipment.

She shyly claims no role on the artistic side, yet it is she who picks up arriving artists and shares her home with them, a gift that any artist who has toured knows is precious and indispensable. Through her sunny personality and solid yet unintrusive support, she has been "like a rock" to her artistic friends.