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The Globe and Mail

Dorothy Georgia Christine Brubaker (née McCallum)

Mother, wife, grandmother, Avon lady, cashier, gambler, helper. Born June 8, 1935, in Palmerston, Ont., died Jan. 19, 2012, in Waterloo, Ont., of lung cancer, aged 76.

Standing at the front of the church with Dorothy's other grandchildren (Taylor, Gabriela, Jacob and Daniel), Nathan began his part of the eulogy. He said woman was created to be man's helper. My feminist Spidey senses stopped tingling as Nathan pointed out that God is also described multiple times as a "helper" in the Bible. Seeing woman as helper in the same way as God is a helper immediately removes the connotation of woman as secondary or lesser, and properly situates the role of helper as valuable in society.

Nathan nailed it. Dorothy was a helper. She was married to David for more than 50 years and was the devoted mother of three: Juli, David Jr. and Lisa. Dorothy was also the adopted mother of a horde of her kids' friends as the need arose; I was one of those kids. I was amazed at the ease with which Dorothy accepted me. Although it was everything to me, it was nothing to her to set an extra place at the table or to provide me with a place to stay (at one point for months). Her family teased her about her cooking, but I loved it. She was great at comfort food.

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Dorothy was an anxious person, always taking great precautions to keep out robbers and rapists. She wouldn't take a bath unless every single door and window was locked. Her fears gave rise to some strange behaviour and much teasing over the years. Dorothy had a great sense of humour, and with no apparent ego she laughed easily at herself.

In her final days, Dorothy was in a lot of pain but did not lose her humour. She had two nurses, Dee and Bride, taking care of her. At one point, as they entered the room together, she quipped, "Here comes deebride."

Dorothy accepted people for who they are. Arnold, a neighbourhood disabled man with a harelip, was a regular visitor for coffee when we were kids. From Arnold came a quotation the Brubaker family used often with affection and humour: "What are ya, tupid?"

Dorothy listened to stories and did not judge. She didn't want much for herself, and was grateful for simple gestures and small acts of appreciation.

To satisfy our curiosity in a safe environment, Dorothy bought us a Playgirl Magazine when we were in our mid-teens. At a time when many parents couldn't speak about sex, she was open and approachable.

Dorothy loved to play games and was a fierce competitor. I can see her drinking rye and Coke and playing euchre on the yellow Formica table at the Brubaker cottage. Best not to mess up as her partner because she would let you have it if you did. She loved Scrabble and challenged her opponents' words. Dorothy could stay up all night gambling at the casino. Bingo trips were frequent. The last time my five-year-old daughter visited her, just before she died, they scratched lottery tickets together.

Dorothy was an unassuming woman who pursued a good life. She worked hard, demanded little and gave a lot to many. In the weeks before she died, those to whom she had given so much let her know the importance of her many gifts to them. Dorothy embodied family and community. Dorothy made a difference.

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Cheryl Foy is one of the kids Dorothy helped.

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