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Nuala Freund.Courtesy of the family

Nuala Freund: Musician. Mother. Partner. Survivor. Born Aug. 23, 1938, in Paris, Ont., died April 20, 2019, in Stratford, Ont., of heart failure; aged 80.

Nuala Bell was very young when her mother put a violin in her hands. She took to the instrument, and soon there was a family trio – with her mother, Kathleen, on piano and her father, Geoffrey (a dentist), on cello. Nuala also loved figure skating, but that took second fiddle. At 14, she was recruited by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and joined her parents on stage for the Coronation concert in 1953.

At rehearsals, Nuala met trombonist Arthur Freund and they courted while Nuala played in the symphony and studied music at the University of Toronto. After her graduation in 1959, they married and bought a home in Kitchener so they could continue performing. Their son, Bradley, was born one year later. With deep musical DNA, he would play clarinet in the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, along with his parents and grandparents. In 1963, Nuala’s balance of motherhood and career was tested when – surprise! – she gave birth to twins, Karen and Kathryn. Nuala took it all in stride, and dedicated five decades to performing in the orchestra. Nuala and Art were also stalwarts in the Renaissance Singers, performing in many of England’s great cathedrals on tour.

In the late 1980s, Nuala cared for Art while he battled cancer. As Art would have wanted, she played her scheduled concert the night after his death in 1990, despite her tears.

Following his mother’s astute management of family finance, Bradley became a banker. Learning from Nuala’s flair for style and savvy efficiency in gourmet cooking, Karen and Kathryn pursued careers in fashion design and hospitality.

In 1993, Nuala rediscovered ice dancing in Waterloo. I was blessed to skate into her life and we enjoyed ice dancers’ social gatherings across North America. Our instant life-match encompassed music and theatre, and Nuala helped me create The Magic of Love, a Broadway-style version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

Afflicted with scoliosis from birth, Nuala had to retire before the age of 65 from the physically demanding role of violinist. She seized the opportunity to enjoy our mutual love of travel. While she could still walk with my assistance, we explored Africa, Australia, Indonesia, Argentina and the Galapagos Islands, among many other destinations. Our keen interest in astronomy drew us to Chile and the United States for solar eclipses.

Nuala remained active until about five years ago. She had lost four inches of height due to scoliosis. Her only painless exercise was in water, so she swam almost daily to keep fit, and she would train with her walker for forthcoming trips, doing rounds in the basement in poor weather. Her determination meant we could visit Russia, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro, take our fifth trip to southern France and, finally, in March, 2019, see the Grand Canyon.

Nuala’s death was unexpected. We had planned a full summer of theatre, flying to Nova Scotia to visit Karen and occasions with her six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. But Nuala died the way she wanted: quickly, painlessly and in the arms of the man she loved.

Bob Verdun is Nuala’s partner.

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