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Linda Jolson
Linda Jolson

Lives Lived

Lives Lived: Linda Jolson, 79 Add to ...

Activist. Feminist. Amma. Leader. Born March 19, 1937, in Moose Jaw, Sask.; died Oct. 30, 2016, in Winnipeg, of lung cancer; aged 79.

My mother was a strong woman who cared about social justice. She belonged to a generation of women who fought for careers and equal rights.

Mom grew up in Sturgis, Sask., the oldest of five children. There were many family gatherings at a nearby cottage on Crystal Lake, the highlights for me being my uncles recounting their rascally adventures growing up in a small town. Apparently, they put chickens in the local RCMP officer’s car, among other misdemeanours – although they would never say if my mother was involved. Recently, I came across some old photos that caught her mid-leap over a high-jump bar. As a high- school track-and-field star, she began clearing hurdles early in life.

My grandparents were both teachers, and supported her pursuit of post secondary education. She married Vern Wiebe in 1958, and continued training as a nurse, later returning to study further at the University of Regina. Her children were born during this time in Regina; Rhian in 1959 and John in 1965.

Our family moved to Winnipeg, where Mom had an interesting and effective career fighting for affirmative action and equal rights for women and for Indigenous peoples. As vice-president of Manitoba Hydro, as director general of Indian Affairs in Manitoba and then as treaty negotiator with the British Columbia government, she swam against a tide of institutional racism and resistance to change and gained the respect of community leaders who met with her. It was difficult work, and I recall her language at home becoming more colourful during that period.

Linda’s passionate nature operated outside of work as well. Her rebuttal to the toast to the bride at my wedding encouraged me to stay angry at injustice and to be socially engaged.

My mother survived many challenges: breast cancer, divorce and loss of her son, John. Witnessing her son’s struggles with mental illness was the most difficult chapter of mom’s life, and she always kept photos of him close by.

She did work through the hardest moments, even after retirement, when she started hiking, sewing beautiful quilts and gardening. She loved to cook, and was a big fan of Nora Ephron’s and Lucy Waverman’s recipes. She was helped through this time by her second husband and life-partner, Doug Davison.

She and Doug enjoyed walking their dogs, and they covered a lot of ground. They walked the trails on their rural property near Beausejour, Man., urban Toronto streets and scenic paths when they lived in North Vancouver and Sooke, B.C. They walked country roads together at Crystal Lake, Sask., hiked during vacations in Hawaii, and strolled Birds Hill Park, near where they had recently settled in East St. Paul, Man.

After her diagnosis of lung cancer, those walks got progressively shorter, but mom didn’t seem to get discouraged or despair. She kept reassuring us, she said she had no regrets.

She was a strong role model for me and for her grandchildren, Noni and Iain. She accomplished many things, and made life better for many people. She fought hard, and now it falls to the rest of us to continue her good work.

Rhian Brynjolson is Linda’s daughter.

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