Loving wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, confidante, comforter, Jill of all trades, world traveller. Born March 25, 1947, in Nashville. Died Jan. 30, 2011, in Toronto of peritoneal cancer, aged 63.
Anne Ginestier grew up in the small town of Roanoke, Ala., the second of three children and only daughter to Edgar and Kay Stevenson. She perceived her childhood as the most idyllic possible: “No locks on anyone's doors, no rules other than ‘be home by dark,’ no dangers other than rusty nails, broken glass and poison ivy. Paradise!”
Anne loved her parents and often returned to Roanoke, but spent most of her adult life living in various countries. She met a young Frenchman named Jean-Paul Ginestier in 1964 when he was travelling in the United States with his father. Trans-Atlantic correspondence ensued, and eventually they married in Alabama in 1968. Over the next seven years, they lived in Cameroon, France and England before moving to Toronto in 1975 with their two children, Miriam and Eric.
The city was their home for 20 years (minus one year in Switzerland), during which Anne worked at the Toronto French School, first in administration and ultimately as registrar. In 1995, Anne and Jean-Paul got the travel bug again and moved to Norway, then Italy; Anne worked for the United World College organization as a guidance counsellor and mentor. They returned to Toronto in 2009.
Anne was best known for her ubiquitous smile, genuine good nature and wisdom. Even as a school administrator, she was the one who put bandages on scraped knees and consoled upset children. Students who missed or had lost family members, and those from poorer backgrounds, were particularly drawn to her.
Anne’s parents were hard-working people who lived in the South during the Depression, and their experiences influenced her strong work ethic, frugality and humility. As much as possible, she and Jean-Paul renovated their houses themselves, and in leaner times, much of their children’s wardrobes came from the school’s supply of unclaimed lost and found articles. When she was suddenly diagnosed with stage four cancer, she reflected, “It’s not so bad because we’ve always been so lucky.”
She was immensely compassionate, but within limits. On one occasion, she attempted to help a snapping turtle off a rural road, afraid it would be struck by a car. When it wheeled on her and snapped the clipboard she had been using to nudge it along in two, she looked it in the eye and said, “Right – you’re on your own.”
Anne’s compassion for her family, however, had no limits. She considered her children her “two greatest gifts,” and appreciated that the slow progress of her illness gave them the opportunity to say goodbye to her for as long as possible. Her presence is sorely missed every day.
Eric Ginestier is Anne’s son.