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Raylene Rankin, a member of the internationally acclaimed group the Rankin Family who went on to a successful musical career independent of her siblings, died on Sept. 30 after an 11-year battle with cancer. (Sandor Fizli for The Globe and Mail)
Raylene Rankin, a member of the internationally acclaimed group the Rankin Family who went on to a successful musical career independent of her siblings, died on Sept. 30 after an 11-year battle with cancer. (Sandor Fizli for The Globe and Mail)

OBITUARY

Humour, empathy came naturally to Rankin Family star Add to ...

Bonny MacIsaac’s recollections, however, were of the tragedies that have befallen the Rankin family.

In the radio documentary, Rankin spoke of how her father’s sudden death in 1981 made her more protective of family and her privacy. Unfortunately, suddenness and death have often been coupled for the Rankins.

Brother John Morris died in 2000, in a car accident. Sister Geraldine died instantly in 2007, from a cerebral aneurysm.

“They’ve had a lot of hard hits,” said Effie Rankin.

Even though Raylene Rankin had been fighting cancer for more than a decade, her death caught people off guard.

At the end of the radio documentary, Rankin said she was not done yet: “I guess I’m not ready to pack it in. I said to a friend: ‘I’m not finished.’ ”

The hope she expressed, St. Clair said, had given others the hope that her health had turned a corner. Rankin had been planning to perform in Mabou this month.

Compassion was another word often employed to describe Rankin.

“Her attitude was always ‘How can I help make this better for you?’ ” Crowe said.

Empathy was the word that Colin Anderson used to capture his wife, saying with a mixture of pride and disbelief that one human being could have possessed so much.

Anderson, too, was at the Shoe Friday evening and returned later that night, surrounded by friends and welcoming to those wishing to pass on condolences.

In a brief interview, Anderson said that the two services had been celebrations of his wife’s life after the tough final days. He said she fought until the very end and he rejected any notion that she lost the battle.

“She won. She succeeded,” Anderson said.

Then comes that word: “She had such empathy.” Even as her life was drawing to a close, Anderson said, “she was worried about others.” Especially their son, who was three when Rankin was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, and 11 when the disease returned in 2009.

“The last few weeks were spent convincing her she had done her job [in caring for others],” Anderson said.

The sun broke through during the service in Mabou on Friday on what had been a cloudy day.

“It was a lot easier for people to come out of that church knowing it was sunny and beautiful,” Effie Rankin said.

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