Her kindness had an edge, however. “She was very humble but confident at the same time. She didn’t suffer fools,” Ms. Crnkovich recalls. “She was very frank. She said exactly what was on her mind,” says John Flood, owner of Penumbra Press, which published Carved in Stone. Ms. Lambert recalls her sister being frustrated at her cautiousness when they were children. “I don’t understand why you don’t give your opinion on everything right away!” young Eleanor cried. “Sometimes, I don’t have an opinion yet,” Barbara replied. “I always have an opinion,” Eleanor told her.
Throughout her long life, Ms. Milne kept on learning and advancing her craft. In her 80s, when she bought her first Apple computer, she struggled at first with the new technology. “I hate this Mac!” she told friends. “I don’t know why they said it was easier.” Soon enough, however, she’d mastered the new tool and was creating impressive computer art.
Also while in her 80s, she visited an Ottawa elementary school to talk about art. The computers went down and none of the teachers could fix them. A Grade 4 student had to step in. “You have a responsibility to learn this stuff,” Ms. Milne berated the teachers. “These children can teach you and you should be learning.”
This frankness was well balanced by a strong sense of humour and a lot of quirkiness. Ms. Milne, a lover of dogs and nature, would often stop to admire ants and other insects. She was interested in cars and at one point drove around in a huge white Buick station wagon with wood panelling on the sides. She collected bits and bobs from her travels, though few of them were truly valuable art pieces and were often just things that she liked or had meaning for her. She also collected stuffed animals. Often very big ones.
Near the end of her life, she began giving things away, and gave her niece Alexandra Lambert a stuffed polar bear. Later, she told her that the toy had a “little friend” she should find in the house, which Ms. Lambert eventually figured out was a little knitted dinosaur. When she asked if the toy had a name, she was told she should name it, but that Ms. Milne wasn’t sure if it was male or female. “It’s hard to tell. He’s a bit of a cross dresser,” she said.
Friends, family and colleagues recall her incredible sense of basic design, line and visual perception. Ms. Milne could draw, sculpt and create just about anything. MP Lois Brown spoke of Ms. Milne in the House of Commons after her death, suggesting her colleagues look around them to see how her work transformed their workplace. “She altered the very fabric of this building using a mallet, a chisel, and a brilliant artistic mind.”
Eleanor Milne leaves her sister, Ms. Lambert, and 10 nieces and nephews.
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