Wife, grandmother, consummate volunteer. Born Sept. 27, 1933, in Toronto, died March 26, 2013, in Port Hope, Ont., of cancer, aged 79.
To list all of the volunteer positions Nancy took would be impossible; there were over 100. Her workload required a secretary one day a week, and she was awarded the Commemorate Medal for Canada’s 125th anniversary, and the Ontario Bicentennial Medal.
Nancy began this path after marrying Alan Redner, whom she had met when both were Ryerson University students in Toronto. She dropped her textbooks, he picked them up, and the romance was on. They both had summer jobs at St. Andrews By-the-Sea, N.B. They married in 1966.
One of Nancy’s enjoyable volunteer efforts was organizing the first visit of the Tall Ships to the Great Lakes, in a landing at Port Hope, Ont., in the 1980s. This was spoiled, though, when one of the ships sank en route, off the coast of Bermuda.
Alan was a teaser, Nancy always had a chuckle; their glass was always half full.
When her best friend was dying in hospital, Nancy sent her a letter every day with words of encouragement. She was always a note writer, in green pen due to her love of St. Patrick’s Day, and she never forgot anyone’s Hallmark occasions.
Nancy loved clothes, and was always dressed to perfection. She loved her family and its history, imprinted by her father, Brigadier Ian Cumberland.
She and Alan lived most of their married life in Dunain, a Port Hope mansion owned by the Cumberland family since 1857. This was the scene of memorable parties, always catered by Nancy with exuberant energy. She learned how to host a party by watching her mom through the staircase. There was one exception: New Year’s Eve, when the Redners and their friends always rode the TTC in formal wear, people-watching.
There came a time when the upkeep of their huge home was beyond them. Nancy forfeited her many volunteer jobs and went back to work full time as a professional fundraiser in Toronto, first as executive director at York Finch Hospital, then the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (now CAMH), then the Hospital for Sick Children.
For several years, son Michael commuted with her. She loved to talk while he drove, so to temper this he played tapes of bird calls, and Nancy would drift to sleep.
Her children’s favourite memory was getting away to the cottage at Stoney Lake – it was the only thing which took Nancy away from her volunteering. The trip required two cars. Once, when one of them broke down, three children, one dog, six puppies, one cat and six kittens had to be piled into the other, leaving Alan to hitchhike home.
The expenses of Dunain grew, and Alan’s health was failing, forcing them to sell in 2007. Michael remembers his mom being more upset about that than when she heard she had terminal cancer. She told no one when her symptoms began, and continued to nurse Alan until his death in September, 2012. The cancer took her in March, 2013.
Heather Hogarth is Nancy’s goddaughter; Anne Logan is a family friend.