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Dorice Caplice died in Toronto of cancer. She was 74.

Grandmother, defender of underdogs, lover of Christmas. Born Dec. 20, 1938, in Maniwaki, Que., died May 3, 2013, in Toronto of cancer, aged 74.

Dorice led a full and principled life defined by family, friends and faith.

The youngest of five children of Rose and Octave St. Gelais, she arrived when the next in line was already 12, and the eldest of the clan, Alec, had just turned 18.

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When Dorice was a young girl, the family moved to Windsor, Ont., and were the only French family in a very English part of the city. While that could not have been easy for Dorice, I'm certain it helped form the stick-to-itveness in her character. Through the patience and kindness of an older couple in the house next door, she learned to speak English by pointing at pictures in the Eaton's catalogue.

Happiness figures strongly in her recollections of those Windsor days in the mid-1940s to 1950s. She would use her allowance to buy cherry soda floats and enjoy Sunday picnics in Point Pelee with the whole family. Friday night basketball games were followed by sock hops – you couldn't, of course, dance on the gym floor in your shoes – moving to the music of Bill Haley and the Comets and big band tunes. She had a part-time job at Adelman's department store, where she could buy a blouse for a dollar.

Dorice enjoyed school, particularly history and geography, but was also strong in science, and 56 years ago this summer, she left Windsor for Toronto to study for a career in radiation therapy. She loved her work, and also her co-workers, patients and their families, during her 26 years on staff at Princess Margaret Hospital.

In 1962, she married Dennis Caplice, and in the fullness of time this union of two became a family of 18. As she would recall: "When I said, 'I do,' I had no idea what a wonderful choice I was making." Family was paramount in Dorice's world, and she and Dennis worked very hard to build a strong family.

Her children were her proudest achievement, and it was family that pulled her through all adversity, particularly over the last five years.

She had a great love of cooking and entertaining. Our home was always filled with people and permeated by laughter. And she volunteered a great deal in the community, with home and school associations, skating clubs, baseball, school theatre and our church.

Dorice was also a great mother-in-law, or so I'm told. She was so proud of the "three lovely young women," as she called them, who were brought into her life. As time passed, she grew more willing to listen and backed off on giving advice – hard for her to do, I'm sure.

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She adored being a grandmother. "It's an all loving relationship," she said. "You love them for who they are and they love you back."

What I think she meant was it's a wonderful relationship unburdened by parenthood. She truly treasured her nine grandchildren and left them some words to live by. On reflection, it's great advice for all of us: "Be yourself. Don't be influenced by others, just be who you want to be. Love your family. And forgive. Forgiving is a big thing. Forgiveness gives you peace. And don't set out to hurt anyone. Leave gossip alone. But above all, love your family."

Michael Caplice is Dorice's son.

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