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Lynda Elizabeth Olsen
Lynda Elizabeth Olsen

Lives Lived: Lynda Elizabeth Olsen, 71 Add to ...

Mother, volunteer, life-long learner, adventurous spirit. Born on May 31, 1942; died on Feb. 19, 2014, in Toronto, of cancer, aged 71.

Lynda’s mother was a Kerr from Ireland, her father a Kerr from Scotland. Suitably, they ended up raising their family in a loving home on Kerr Road, in Toronto’s east end. Lynda often spoke of how her mother did an amazing job raising five children, how she was ahead of the times and always trying new things. Lynda likely never realized that this is how her own children described her.

Lynda’s life choices always centred around happiness, kindness and common sense. She had an almost 20-year career in the insurance business before marrying Barry Olsen and raising a family. When his job at Ontario Hydro involved a move shortly after the birth of daughter Kerry, Lynda shifted, with some difficulty, from being a Toronto working girl to a stay-at-home mom in an Ottawa Valley village. With her daughter only months old, she spent a trying first winter in Fitzroy Harbour far from family and friends. Keeping with her sense of humour, she sent “Where the hell is Fitzroy Harbour?” sweatshirts to everyone in Toronto. Five years later, with three-year-old Greg now part of the family, Barry’s work took them to Belleville. There, her life focused on the children’s education.

Lynda’s greatest regret was that she had not become a teacher, and she instilled in her children tremendous respect for education through her volunteer efforts. She was on every parent council at every school they attended and was a frequent presence in their classrooms. She was always ready to help any child. She baked muffins for one little girl who did not have breakfast at home; through sheer willpower, she helped a special needs boy be accepted into the social circle of her daughter’s class. When Kerry became a teacher, Lynda had the pleasure of volunteering in her classroom many times.

In 1994, the family moved to Sudbury. With her children now in high school, Lynda got a job waitressing at Swiss Chalet so she could meet new people. She loved the job because she enjoyed the company of the staff and the stories of her customers.

The moving truck arrived again in February, 2000, and this time she was happy to see it, as she was headed to her family’s cottage property near Orillia. She had spent every summer on Lake Simcoe since childhood, and there she and Barry would build their retirement home. Shortly after the move, Greg, then 21, was diagnosed with leukemia. In the months following, he would often remind her that he was an adult capable of making decisions about his care; she would remind him that he would always be her little boy and that it was her job to take care of him.

Life changed terribly when Greg passed away in September, 2006; the grief was crippling for a time, but Lynda’s resiliency and her wish to honour his passion for life kept her going. She joined a group for grieving mothers, who soon became her closest friends. She began travelling again (a Caribbean cruise with Barry, Walt Disney World with her daughter, her first ride down a water slide at age 64). She took a memoir-writing class and began painting watercolours. She volunteered at a school and a nursing home.

When she was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2011, she was given about six months to live. Lynda fought hard through two major surgeries and chemotherapy to stay with us an extra three years – long enough to meet and fall in love with her grandsons Robert and Ole. She passed away in the sunniest corner of the home she built on the lake she loved.

Kerry Sparrow is Lynda’s daughter.

 

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