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Doreen Smith Lisle
Doreen Smith Lisle

Lives Lived: Doreen Smith Lisle, 77 Add to ...

Wife, mother, athlete, volunteer. Born in Campbellford, Ont., on Dec. 28, 1935; died in Ottawa on June 29, 2013, of cardiac arrest, aged 77.

Whenever her children complained about something a friend had done to them, Doreen Lisle would simply say, “You can never have enough friends.” These were words she lived by and were made vivid on a hot day in July when the people of Campbellford, Ont., packed St. Mary’s Church to say their farewell to her.

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Doreen was born in Campbellford in 1935 to Dan and Mary Smith. Mary had come to Canada from Scotland before the First World War and married Dan, a farmer, and settled on the family farm near Hastings. Doreen was the last of 10 children, and the fifth daughter.

She earned the nickname “Cap” from a comic-strip character who, like her, wore a cap to school every day. With five older brothers, she grew up a tomboy and was tough as nails. Her siblings would stage fights at recess in their one-room school house, with Cap as the featured fighter.

After high school, Cap began working in 1955 as a Bell telephone operator in Campbellford and Peterborough. She met Chuck Lisle at a summer dance on the banks of the Trent River; Pat Boone’s Love Letters in the Sand provided the soundtrack to their romance. Their wedding in October, 1958, took place in St. Mary’s, Cap’s lifelong parish. It was the start of a 55-year marriage that saw them raise five children in a classic Ontario farm house near Campbellford. Chuck, who worked as a guard at Warkworth penitentiary, still lives in their home.

To make some extra cash for her large family, Cap took on jobs ranging from picking apples and berries to cleaning cottages and managing a camp ground where we spent happy summers. After the kids grew up, Cap went back to school at age 50, became a certified health-care aide, and worked at a senior citizens home for many years.

Cap also sang in her church choir and kept busy with charitable work. She spent many hours canvassing for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Save the Crowe Bridge Park group, and St. Vincent de Paul Society. (She was attending a St. Vincent de Paul conference in Ottawa when she passed away.)

She loved sports, as both a player and fan. Her lifelong passion was softball. She joined a softball league in the 1970s and retired in 2012, after playing with women 40 years her junior. When she was in her early 70s, she got a call from a Peterborough league asking her to join a seniors slo-pitch team. She promptly told them she wasn’t old enough to play slo-pitch yet.

She also loved curling, skating and yoga, and kept her beach bag in her car trunk for her daily summer dip in the Crowe River. The bag was complete with plastic wine glass for a cool spritzer on a hot day.

Cap was always up for a party and each year hosted a skating event on her Dec. 28 birthday. She was famous for booking the local rink at the last minute, but every year relatives and friends turned out to skate or play shinny. After her death, we decided to go ahead with the party but were dismayed to find the rink was already reserved for that date. Curiously, it turned out that it was Cap who had booked it last May. Just like her to get the party started even if she couldn’t make it. The celebration of her life will go ahead one day early this year, and will also mark the 18th birthday of granddaughter Jesse.

While sorting out Cap’s clothing after her death, her daughters found a note in one of her pockets that read, “Never regret getting older, it is a privilege denied to many.”

Brian Lisle is Doreen’s son.

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