Intrepid adventurer, loyal friend, volunteer, Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medallist. Born Jan. 28, 1917, near Peterborough, Ont., died March 14, 2013, in Toronto after a brief illness, aged 96.
Marjerie used to walk a mile from her family’s farm, which ran on “just horse power,” to a one-room schoolhouse. A classmate who spent the usual eight years there recalls that it took Marjerie nine years to finish because “she refused to read.”
Yet when I met her in 1997, she read newspapers and magazines in Toronto’s Northern District Library almost every day, phoning her friends afterward about items that might interest us.
Resolutely independent, Marjerie was always more interested in collecting friends and travelling than in money, which she used shrewdly to finance those interests.
At 16, she began part-time work as a store clerk in Peterborough, and in 1944 moved to Toronto with $80 tucked inside her blouse. “I answered an ad in The Globe and Mail,” she wrote in a 2000 booklet of memoirs by a group of North Toronto seniors. “A lady in a wheelchair needed help. I could drive, so I got to know … the city. I still keep in touch with her grandchildren.”
Marjerie clerked at Eaton’s, worked for an insurance company and a tobacco firm (she never smoked, but it paid well), and was a live-in nanny for two preteen brothers. She moved to Vancouver, “met a woman who had an old Dodge [but] didn’t like driving,” and teamed up with her for road trips out of town. An office job paid for her bus and train trips.
Back in Toronto in the 1980s, Marjerie was asked by a couple to chauffeur them to Halifax. She liked it there enough to buy a condo and stay five years. There, she took a harbour tour on the original Bluenose, cruised from Nassau through the Panama Canal and up to Vancouver, and drove around much of Canada and the United States.
A lifelong Conservative, Marjerie worked on all election campaigns.
She volunteered in blood donor clinics in Halifax and in Toronto, continuing until 2011. She served so many organizations – including the Canadian Cancer Society, Senior People’s Resources in North Toronto, the Anne Johnston Health Station, the Central Eglinton Community Centre, the Alzheimer Society and the North Toronto Historical Society – that in 1992 she was awarded a Confederation Medal and in 2003 a Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal.
When I moved away from our apartment building, she took over my chore of looking after two cats whose owner, Leonard, travelled a lot on business. She was 83, I was 63, Leonard was 43. The three of us had clicked amazingly.
Marjerie volunteered with the North Toronto Historical Society, so we all attended lectures there. Leonard volunteered at the Out of the Cold program at Blythwood Rd. Baptist Church and we all served there. I love camping; Leonard provided the campsite, and Marjerie happily relived her “horse-powered” farm days.
When she died in her sleep after a brief illness, Leonard was holding her hand. Her ashes were interred in Peterborough beside her mother’s.
Ewa Jarmicka was a friend of Marjerie’s.