Wife, corporate executive, mentor of women, inspired gardener, gypsy spirit. Born July 8, 1949 in Hanna, Alta., died April 14, 2013, in Annan, Ont., of cancer, aged 63.
If love was the cure for cancer, Florence Murphy-Dabbs would be in her English-style country garden in the rural Ontario village of Annan, amid the hummingbirds, honey bees and flowers.
The youngest sibling of 15 in the Erion farm family at Scapa near Hanna, Alta., Florence was loved by family, friends colleagues. She was even grudgingly loved by some of her adversaries in business, because she loved them first – in the New Testament sense of love, which includes loving those you don’t really like.
During her 30-year career in oil and gas production, starting as a paralegal at Dome Petroleum and retiring as a vice-president at Encana Corp., Florence gained a reputation as a quiet, patient and effective communicator. In the toughest negotiations and the tensest conflicts, she never lost her sense of balance, her gentleness and her good humour.
After her death, a colleague and one-time boss, David Annesley, wrote: “She had many significant accomplishments to her credit in both her work and her non-work life. The overriding one, to me, was not so much what she accomplished but the way in which she accomplished so much. Simply put, she made a habit of setting new standards for the word ‘class’ in virtually everything she did.”
In 1995, when the Express-Platte oil pipeline project from Alberta to Illinois ran into stiff opposition – from American oil producers, land owners, politicians and communities – Florence took up residence in Wyoming and overcame opposition by building one relationship at a time.
She stayed in the United States for six years with the pipeline, making close friends who remained that way after her return to Canada in 2002.
For the final two years of her career, Florence joined the Government of Canada Fellows Program, a government-industry exchange program that allowed her to work in the Public Service Agency and the Canada Sciences and Technology Museums Corp.
She loved everything about Ottawa, especially the role of the public servant speaking truth to power.
For 30 years, she and three girlfriends who met at Dome went on an annual golf weekend each summer, from British Columbia to Bermuda. As time went by, they spent more time exploring local high spots than golfing.
After retirement, she devoted herself to her garden where, as is said in Eastern cultures, the flowers knew her by name.
After a two-year pilgrimage with cancer, Florence died April 14 in her parlour, wrapped in her favourite quilt, beside members of her family. She was honoured by those who loved her this spring at services in Annan, Ottawa and Calgary.
Frank Dabbs is Florence’s husband.