Sharlene Hertz: Fundraiser. Teacher. Leader. Motivator. Born May 14, 1951, in Regina; died Feb. 29, 2020, in North Vancouver, of heart failure; aged 68.
You needed to be careful when you told Sharlene Hertz your dreams because she would make sure you achieved them, even if you were ready to give up. She was a woman who worked hard to improve people’s lives – her family, her friends and her community.
Born in Regina, she likely lay next to her future husband, Keith Reynolds, as an infant in the hospital nursery – they were born just days apart. She grew up with her younger brother, Blaine, in the small town of Southey, Sask., surrounded by family. Extended family was important throughout her life, especially when her parents separated in Sharlene’s teens, and she and Blaine were raised by a single mother with a lot less money.
To make a little extra cash, Sharlene would babysit for members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
At 17, she met Keith again at a political rally. He was immediately drawn to her, and over the next several months Keith won her over.
Sharlene graduated high school with a solid determination, after watching her mother struggle, that she would never be dependent on a man for money. She moved to Ottawa for her first year of undergrad at Carleton, then took a year off before returning to the University of Regina, where she got her BA in sociology.
She and Keith followed each other between cities and married in Ottawa in 1975. After a six-week honeymoon in Europe driving a VW camper van, they settled in the capital.
In 1976 she took a job doing constituency casework for an NDP member of Parliament. It was a good fit because she was determined that bureaucracy should not treat people unfairly. In the 1980s she became the federal NDP whip’s assistant. She found herding cats was a good analogy for managing MPs.
In 1983, when her daughter, Alexa, was born, Sharlene left the Hill. She spent a year working for an Ottawa councillor then left politics. She became a travel agent and then earned her certificate in teaching English as a second language. Her son, Matthew, was born a couple of years later and she became involved in their small school. Among other things, she fundraised to hire an artist in residence for the school.
When Keith took a job in Vancouver in 1993, the family followed. Here, she found her stride as a fundraiser while also earning a master’s degree in adult education remotely from St. Francis Xavier University. She worked for the Coast Foundation, which helps people with mental illnesses, and played a lead role in persuading several large organizations to fund the Courage to Come Back awards in B.C.
In 2007 she was offered her dream job as a fundraiser for an international aid organization in Ottawa but had to turn it down: She had recently been diagnosed with leukemia.
When doctors told Sharlene that she had six months to live, her family told the doctors Sharlene was tough as an old Prairie boot and she wasn’t going anywhere. Thanks to that Prairie toughness and medical good fortune, she lived another 13 years.
She never returned to the work force but that didn’t stop her. Sharlene became the spark plug for her community association, pushing for sensible planning and generally making herself a nuisance to elected officials.
When she was unable to walk longer distances, her family bought a travel wheelchair and toured museums in cities such as London and Berlin. Sharlene believed a parent’s job was to build memories.
Keith Reynolds is Sharlene’s husband.
To submit a Lives Lived: firstname.lastname@example.org
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