Emma Lisa Antunes Leckey: Daughter. Sister. Friend. Inspiration. Born April 29, 1996, in Ottawa; died March 20, 2018, in Toronto, of injuries after being hit by a car; aged 21.
Emma was just shy of her 22nd birthday, and just about to graduate from the University of Toronto when she was struck by an alleged drunk driver and never regained consciousness. Her organ donation would save another life.
Every moment spent with Emma was fun. Heads turned to catch her beautiful smile. She loved music, concerts, dogs, travelling, blue cheese, Bananagrams, badminton and pedicures. She was sweet and goofy and funny, but also kind, generous and thoughtful. She never had any money but gave the best gifts. She was never on time for anything, but she was worth waiting for.
Emma was the most loyal of friends, most of all to her much older brother and sister, whom she adored. From them, she absorbed retro pop-culture references, and while her friends found her old-school tastes in music and fashion cool, siblings Sara and Mark treasured these signs of her enduring appreciation. They say she was the best of both of them, their middle ground and the glue in the sibling bond.
She was studying Ethics, Society and Law, a program she chose because it matched her social conscience. She planned to devote her life to helping other people.
Emma led and inspired others. She volunteered often, organizing the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in high school and eventually serving as co-chair for the Relay for the entire University of Toronto. She fought against homophobia and was a strong ally of the LGBTQ community, co-chairing the support group at her college.
She fought to improve the lot of Indigenous peoples, devoting her capstone research project for her Honours BA to Indigenous health. Instead of spending her final reading week travelling or relaxing at home in Ottawa, she stayed in Toronto to work for an organization that welcomes newcomers to Canada.
Somehow, while doing all this, she also met her own high academic ambitions. While she was in hospital, the University of Toronto granted her degree. It did so speedily enough that her parents were able to squeeze her hand and tell her she didn’t need to worry any more about finishing those final papers.
Emma’s family is determined that her senseless death will not be meaningless. Emma’s college has created a scholarship in her name: The initiative came from the Students’ Association in recognition of how great her impact had been. Generous contributions have been made in her name to charities that support her causes, and more are planned. The University of Toronto also passed a memorial resolution in Emma’s name, the first time this honour, usually reserved for deceased faculty, has been accorded to a student. This truly remarkable gesture reflects the magnitude of the loss and the shock wave felt around the university.
Emma’s life was just beginning, it was bright and brilliant in every sense and she was going to love every moment. What a life it would have been.
Geoff Leckey is Emma’s father.
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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide