Wife, mother, lawyer, editor, gardener, conversationalist. Born June 15, 1942, in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, died July 24, 2012, in Napanee, Ont., of cancer, aged 70.
Paula always considered herself a citizen of a lost country – Southern Rhodesia, which became simply Rhodesia under Ian Smith in 1965 and Zimbabwe in 1980. She and her three children came to Canada in 1977, and each January thereafter celebrated their real Thanksgiving.
She described her first breath of winter air as “like a stab in the chest.” This may have been one of the reasons she always insisted on keeping “blizzard provisions.”
She met her second husband, widower Charles Beale, in 1999, when her children were grown and she was living in Port Hope, Ont. Little did she know that the rest of her life would be nomadic.
They married in Perth, Australia, during a three-month visit to New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. They lived in Ottawa and Victoria before settling in eastern Ontario, in Charles’s hometown of Napanee.
Paula was much, much more than the diminutive and elegant lady she appeared. She had a wolf whistle that would stop a bus. Once, while on a winter trip to Nerja, Spain, she was stopped on the street and asked if she was actress Annette Crosby. At other times, it was Judi Dench. Both are formidable, but Paula’s star power was unique.
Charles was her “best beloved” and Paula was his “precious petal.”
She had a wicked sense of humour and a hearty laugh. When curious people asked where in England she was from, she would often reply: “I’m African – can’t you tell?”
But she was also humble to a fault. An attentive listener, she would gladly let others blow their own horns, though she was an Exeter University graduate and had been a prosecuting attorney in Rhodesia.
In her youth she had been good at tennis, swimming and downhill skiing. Years later, when fibromyalgia and arthritis put these pursuits in the past, she happily took up others.
Paula was proud of her flower gardens. One became home to a nest of snakes, which Paula feared from growing up in Africa. Undaunted, she installed solar hummers and the snakes went elsewhere. The first year at their cottage in Long Reach, Charles heard an ear-piercing scream and found Paula flailing desperately to get out of the lake. She described “this huge black snake with its mouth wide open” coming for her. She never went in the water again, but did learn to kayak with one of her grandsons.
Paula hated new technology with a passion, but embraced it when it meant she could Skype with granddaughters in San Francisco. All six grandchildren were a blessing to her.
Give her Mendelssohn or Mozart or Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and she was in heaven. Her fitting epitaph by poet P. B. Shelley reads: “Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory.”
Charles Beale is Paula’s husband.
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