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facts & arguments

Wife, mother, grandmother, Torontonian, writer. Born Oct. 5, 1930, in Toronto. Died Aug. 2, 2011, in Toronto of cancer, aged 80.

Joanne Philpott was known for her keen and challenging intellect. This intellect sprung from her upbringing in Toronto with her sister, Peggy Glassco, and was encouraged by their parents, Dr. Warren and Dorothy Stoddart.

Joanne became editor of her high-school newspaper, where the keen newshound in her was initiated. She was a strong and opinionated woman slightly ahead of her time.

After graduating from the University of Toronto, Joanne became a cub reporter for The Globe and Mail. She covered fires and the like in downtown Toronto. Always one to take initiative, she noted a gap in the paper for young married women. She suggested a column on bringing up family, and the Morning Coffee Club was born. The column ran for 10 years and she won the Canadian Women's Press Award for it.

In these columns she chronicled the tension for women in the sixties that Betty Friedan wrote about in The Feminine Mystique – that women who were university educated were expected to stay home and raise a family once their children were born.

Her byline was Joanne Strong, which was her first married name. Her three children, Diane, Doug and Willa, were featured often in her columns. After this she stayed home in the seventies to indeed look after her growing family.

She then solved the elusive work-family balance in her own life when the last of her three children was in high school. She returned to The Globe writing a weekly piece called The Informal Columns. This was her dream job, interviewing prominent Canadians and writing them up weekly, including the likes of John Tory, Roberta Bondar and Thomas Bata. Around this time she returned to pursue her master's degree at the University of Toronto, and was also appointed to the university's Governing Council.

She remarried in the 1980s to David Philpott. They became the quintessential Toronto couple, loving all the culture the city had to offer and volunteering their time generously. Both were writers and newshounds and it was a meeting of the minds. They also had a great time socializing and travelling the world. Joanne loved her current-events club and her two book clubs – reading was always a passion.

Joanne's intellect could be challenging. On the one hand, a Sunday evening dinner with the family spent discussing current events was enlightening. On the other hand, if you were unaware of the latest news you could feel slightly intimidated.

But her challenging mind was a wonderful thing. Her reporter's quest for the most interesting story never left her, and there was always great substance in anything Joanne talked about. We are all the better for having known and talked to her.

By Willa Strong Gerlings, Joanne's daughter.