Valley Lives - Keitha Scharn Nesbitt

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the February 23, 2011 issue. Reprinted with permission.

'Dedicated' volunteer, mom dies at 48

by Trevor Greenway

One thing that Keitha Scharn Nesbitt wanted to do in her life was travel to Ireland with her family. And though she didn't make the trip alive, she'll make it there in spirit one day.

"I am going to try to take her there," said Keitha's 13-year-old daughter Shanna Mahon, still shaken by her mother's death. "Mom really wanted to go to Ireland, so we are going to bring her ashes there."

Keitha died Feb. 1 at the age of 48 after a long and courageous battle with cancer, leaving behind her husband James Mahon and their two children Shanna and 16-year-old Dylan. The three are trying to cope with such a tragic loss.

"She was kind of like my compass," said a tearful James, at the Rupert Community Centre reception, following his wife's funeral. "You take the mom out of a family and..." his voice trailed off. "She took care of everything."

Traveling was one thing the family loved doing together, whether it was quick weekend camping trips, visiting family or cruising the Caribbean around the Virgin Islands, a highlight trip for the family in 2004.

Valley Lives
Keitha Scharn Nesbitt proudly displays a medal that daughter Shanna Mahon won at a figure-skating competition. Photo courtesy Mona Nesbitt.

Keitha was born and raised in Rupert, growing up with her brother John and sisters Mona and Jenifer. She graduated university with a bachelor of science degree, but her life's ambition was to meet a man and return to the country life back in the hills of Rupert.

She got what she wanted when she met her husband James, a country boy himself from up the line in Low.

"She was the best wife you could ask for," said James.

The two were instant soulmates and began building houses together, five in total around Rupert, living in each one before moving on to the next. They had their two children and began a life together, a life extremely important to Keitha.

"She really dedicated her life to family," said her sister Mona. "The store was a concern for her.

"She felt responsible and obligated to helping the family out," she added, referring to the Wakefield General Store, which is owned and operated by the Nesbitt family.

Apart from helping out at the store and raising her family, Keitha was also a music lover and played guitar and sang all the way up to her death in early February.

"When things were hectic, she found refuge in music," said Mona.

Keitha was dedicated to the Rupert and Wakefield community, volunteering at the United Church, Wakefield Elementary School and other local causes. Family and friends described her as a "dedicated, loving person" who was "a fabric in the community." She is often described as a person who gave out plenty more than she took back.

Keitha's brother John will remember his sister as someone who deeply cared about family, most notably during special occasions.

"She never ever missed a birthday," said John at the packed Rupert reception, a sign of how far Keitha's spirit rippled throughout the community. He called Keitha his "real brother," as she was always up for tossing a football around the yard or shooting hoops. Keitha also loved watching her daughter Shanna's spins around the ice during figure-skating competitions.

Although illness prevented her from seeing Shanna at a Jan. 30 event, she saw the results when she returned with two medals, silver and bronze, dangling from ribbons around her neck. Keitha died two days later.

Keitha is survived also by her parents Keith and Kay, and her aunt Lenna Scharf. She will be sadly missed by her sisters-in-law and her many nieces and nephews.

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