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Courtesy of the family

Carol Hunter: Pragmatist. Freethinker. Survivor. Friend. Born Nov. 18, 1924, in Ford City (Windsor), Ont.; died Apr. 26, 2019, in Gravenhurst, Ont., of a stroke; age 94.

Carol lived life on her terms and wouldn’t let adversity, accidents – or three types of cancer – get in her way.

Carol Docherty was born into a large Catholic family of eight children. She grew up during the Depression, when everything was rationed. She learned at a young age to be frugal, self-sufficient and resourceful.

She attended Catholic school, then business college and, by the time she was 18, had a secretarial job with Chrysler, where she met Doug Magrath and they became engaged. Doug enlisted as an Air Force pilot in the Second World War, but was killed just months before the war ended – on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

Carol grieved, then took a job with the British Army in Detroit and commuted. In her purse, she smuggled home what was unavailable in Windsor – things such as lettuce, chocolate bars and cartons of cigarettes. Elastic was also hard to find, so a button held up her underwear. When, on occasion, the button popped off (sending her undies to her ankles) she simply stepped out of her lingerie and popped them in her purse, too.

At 23, when Carol’s parents disapproved of her marrying a non-Catholic from Toronto, she cast aside the white satin fabric she’d bought, purchased a trendy suit and hat, converted to Anglican and married Gilbert Hunter outside of Windsor, with a handful of guests in attendance. She and Gilbert were happily married for 60 years and had five children.

The family spent summers at their Lake Muskoka cottage, where Carol made applesauce and jelly from the crab apples they collected. Her children learned that rules (such as her dishwashing and drying schedule) are meant to be kept and things (such as penny candy) are meant to be shared, equally. Years later, Carol and Gil moved to the cottage in their retirement.

In their 80s, Carol and Gil worked with field naturalists to count birds and identify wildlife, canoed and camped. On one such backwoods adventure, Carol slipped and her ankle snapped like dry kindling. She was airlifted to North Bay, where the doctors pinned her leg back together and said she’d never walk the same again. “Just watch me,” Carol said.

Another time, Carol tripped over the living-room footstool while walking and reading at the same time. Weeks later (when she finally agreed to see a doctor), she had a broken pelvis and was confined to a wheelchair. During those long months of recovery, she read, knitted, sewed and baked, but missed her gardening and, especially, her social life.

After Gil passed, Carol lived alone, but she didn’t slow down. She made pies for the church, won ribbons for her wildflower bouquets in the Horticulturalists’ Flower Show and hosted a weekly knitting group.

Carol loved to travel with her daughters, too, always up for anywhere and anything. She went whale-watching in an inflatable dinghy in the Atlantic, dodged stalactites in an underground cave in Bermuda and helicoptered to a glacier in Alaska. She travelled to Switzerland, Cuba and Jamaica.

On her 90th birthday cruise in the Caribbean, she delighted in the shocked looks on peoples’ faces when they heard her age. When it was time to renew her passport, Carol picked the 10-year option. “I want to tempt fate,” she said.

Karen Hunter is Carol’s daughter.

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