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The Globe and Mail

Lives Lived: Barbara Grace Appleton Philip, 72

Barbara Grace Appleton Philip

Wife, mother, grandmother, nurse, counsellor. Born in Montreal on April 3, 1941; died in Alliston, Ont., on Aug. 27, 2013, of breast cancer, metastasized to spine and lungs, aged 72.

Those who knew Barbara Philip quickly became aware of her incomparable energy and endurance. At the Mary McGill Mental Health Centre in Alliston, Ont., where she was employed as a counsellor, she often worked three 12-hour days in a row, never complaining, always enthusiastic.

In recent years, she was a dedicated hockey grandmom. Undaunted by time or distance she often made the two-hour drive in winter-morning darkness to support her grandson, Jeffrey.

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Barbara, the daughter of George and Marjorie Appleton and sister of Joan, was born and raised in Montreal, where she attended school and initially worked as a bank clerk. In 1960, she met and married Armas Maiste and moved to Ottawa, where she raised their children, Kristiina and Jeffrey. As the children grew and became more independent, Barbara decided it was time for a new challenge.

She became a registered nurse, graduating from Algonquin College in 1980. She worked as a staff nurse at the Ottawa Civic Hospital and then as a visiting nurse for the Victorian Order of Nurses, first in Ottawa and then in Toronto, where the family moved in 1985. Two years later, she and Armas divorced and Barbara set a new path for herself.

In 1988, she earned a bachelor's degree in women's studies at the University of Toronto, followed by a master's degree in counselling psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in 1994 – all while continuing to work part-time for the VON.

Barbara met Alan Philip on a beach in the Bahamas in 1987, a serendipitous encounter that blossomed into a loving 24-year marriage. They later discovered that Alan's mother, Gwen, was a VON patient of Barbara and had decided they were the perfect match for each other. Although Gwen died of cancer only six months after they met, she was very pleased that fate had agreed with her matchmaking plans.

Alan and Barbara moved into a large Victorian house in Toronto's lower Annex in 1988 and were married at home in 1989. Ten years later, they moved to their country home near Everett, Ont., where Barbara threw her energies into creating a beautiful garden and continued her nursing work. In 2004, she was hired as a counsellor at the Mary McGill Mental Health Centre in Alliston, and worked there until retiring in May, 2012.

That same month, Barbara had a complete physical examination with no sign of any problem. Two months later, she had a lump in her breast the size of a walnut. For the next 15 months she fought and struggled with a devastating list of health problems.

Barbara was a woman of uncommon courage, strength of character, love and grace. When friends or relatives visited, although she was often weak and in considerable pain, she would set about placing her discomfort aside. Her adrenalin and her indomitable spirit would visibly rise from within. On occasion she would dissolve into tears of frustration. It might last for an hour or two or sometimes a whole day. But ultimately she would rise up and say, "Okay, enough of that. Let's get on with it."

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Barbara was consumed by her commitment and willingness to help others, and by her personal desire for self-improvement. Although she is deeply missed, her attitude to life is an inspiration to all who knew her.

Alan Philip is Barbara's husband.

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