Wife, mother, piano teacher. Born June 8, 1935, in Brantford, Ont.; died Sept. 19, 2013, in Toronto of ovarian cancer, aged 78.
It was the fall of 2008, and we had just finished planting tulip bulbs in the front garden. They were bright yellow, spaced in groups of six around the perimeter. “I will not live to see these bloom in the spring,” Sondra said.
She had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer after six months of feeling poorly and knowing something was not right. Then came visits to the doctor and twice to the emergency room before a biopsy showed the cancer had spread. After bouts of chemotherapy, a CT scan confirmed she was in remission.
Springtime came in 2009 and Sondra stood in front of the tulips for a photo.
Born in Brantford, Ont., Sondra was one of two daughters of Marion and Reginald Verity. Marion was a soloist who was well known as an opera singer, giving concerts locally and in Ottawa. Reginald was a banker.
Sondra took piano lessons throughout her school years and won many awards at local festivals. Her inherited musical talent took her to the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where she lived in residence. She graduated with her coveted ARCT degree in 1955 and taught there briefly before leaving to marry and start a family.
With her son and daughter, Stephen and Martha, grown and raising families of their own, Sondra decided to teach talented children piano, giving private lessons one-on-one in their homes. She tutored these budding piano players to win many awards and to see them eventually obtaining their own music degrees.
Remarried to Howard Annis in 1995 and living in Thornhill, Ont., Sondra enjoyed life with her family and two grandchildren. She was always keen on taking trips to Europe, Florida and New York. In September, 2009, we took a family trip to Las Vegas – all eight of us. Live theatre and music concerts were always mixed in between.
Another year the yellow tulips came up, and the annual photo of Sondra standing before them was taken.
After three years, the chemo sessions began again. The photos before the tulips became a ritual.
Last August, Sondra knew she was getting weaker. She organized a pre-Christmas party for the whole family on the patio deck; it was a great success.
Each chemo treatment was lasting only half the time of the previous one. She was now always tired and sleeping more than half the day. In spite of going to yoga lessons and to the local gym to work out with a fitness trainer, her legs were getting weaker and she needed a walker or an arm for balance. The pain spread to her legs and the medications to control it were not working.
Her doctor ordered her into the hospital just as she was in the process of requesting assisted home care. The pain was placed under control at the hospital, but mobility was out of the question.
There are five photos of Sondra standing in front of the tulips. Next spring the flowers will come up but no photo will be taken.
Howard Annis is Sondra’s husband.