Advocate, daughter, sister, aunt, mentor, friend. Born May 29, 1958, in Montreal, died April 7, 2011, in Ottawa of cancer, aged 52.
Eve was the cherished youngest child of hard-working Betty and Joe, and the beloved sister of Steve and Irwin.
When she was 4, the family moved from Montreal to Ottawa. Except for a teenage interlude in Toronto, Eve lived the rest of her life near Parliament Hill, a fitting confluence given her love of politics.
We met in 1988 when I joined the NDP family on Parliament Hill. As with all whom she mentored, Eve extended her inclusiveness to me with generosity and humour.
Eve worked tirelessly from an early age to make the lives of Canadians better. As she assumed increasing responsibility within the NDP, and later in public health as well as the Canadian Medical Association, Eve’s intelligence and natural authority stood out. When she spoke, people listened.
While she articulated her own point of view, Eve was always professional and kind to all, regardless of status, background or affiliation. She loved the camaraderie of the Hill and advocacy work.
As our friendship deepened, we travelled near and far. I was the driver. Eve, who never acquired a licence, had an unerring sense of direction and rarely consulted a map.
She was farsighted, and did all the right things: worked hard, saved and lived a healthy life. Sadly, she could not have foreseen the hairpin turn of lung cancer that would divert her from a well-deserved early retirement planned for when she turned 55.
The diagnosis could not have been more cruel. Eve was not a smoker and had watched Joe die of lung cancer 30 years earlier. Despite her grief, she achieved her degree in Canadian history from Carleton University in 1983.
Eve’s passion for history drove her life-long commitment to social justice. In a letter read out by Eve’s boss at her memorial service, Jack Layton wrote that: “Eve embodied the democratic and social values espoused by our party. And as the NDP now embarks on a new and exciting chapter in our history as the Official Opposition, it’s important to remember that this day would not have come without the dedication and hard work of people like Eve. I am very grateful for her contribution to our efforts over the years.”
This recollection is especially poignant given Jack’s own struggle with cancer.
I saw Eve almost every day in the last weeks of her life. For someone so independent and private, being rendered vulnerable and without privacy was frightening and bewildering. But I never heard her say: “How could this happen to me?” Instead, she said with grace, courage and dignity: “I’ll deal with it.”
One of Eve’s heroes was Tommy Douglas, the party’s elder statesman, whom she met in her youth. Tommy’s epitaph reads: “Courage my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world.”
Eve’s life is a testimony to this vision. Let us remember Tommy’s counsel, harness Eve’s example and transform our sadness into a force to make our world a better place, as she did.
Aileen Leo is Eve’s friend.