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facts & arguments

Jennifer Gough

Wife, stepmother, writer, proud Canadian. Born on June 4, 1951, in Toronto; died on Jan. 1, 2015, in Toronto, from acute respiratory distress syndrome, aged 63.

Jennifer Gough didn't just take a bite out of life, she went for the whole five-course meal. Her appetite to understand the world and other cultures led her to travel in her 20s and 30s, mostly alone but always with a camera, across Europe, Asia, India and Africa, where – because she couldn't resist and "it was there" – she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at the age of 39.

As a child growing up in a rather formal home in Toronto, Jennifer developed a strong sense of self and decorum. These traits would serve her well when, in 1987, she began working for the Office of Protocol in Ontario's Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs, and then, in 1997, at the Office of the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.

Some of her proudest career moments came from managing royal visits to the province, including those of the Queen Mother, the Queen and Prince Philip and, most memorably, Prince Charles and Diana in 1991, during which Jennifer accompanied the Princess of Wales and her young sons on their tour of Niagara Falls aboard the Maid of the Mist. (Jennifer would have been tickled pink about the recent birth of Princess Charlotte, and would greatly approve of the inclusion of both Elizabeth and Diana in her name.)

Jennifer's passion for Canadian news and culture, and her keen interest in people and their role in society, likely began from her early years working in newspapers, first in advertising at the Toronto Telegram, then in the ad department at The Globe and Mail, and then as a photographer for the Toronto Sun's "sunshine boys." Although serious about photography, she was good-humoured about taking photos of half-naked men.

In the spring of 1991, she met Michael Ayoub through the Muskoka Festival in Gravenhurst, Ont. He was artistic director of the theatre company, she served on its board of directors. They shared a love not only for the Muskoka region and the arts, but also for Canadian culture, especially in the support of young painters, authors and playwrights. She and Michael married in 1992 and while Jennifer kept her name as a sign of independence and feminism, she was his loving wife and partner for 23 years.

She jokingly referred to herself as "step-monster" to Michael's four young children (Taulene, Mischa, Kendall and Whitney), which couldn't be farther from the truth. She embraced her new role with love, kindness and sincerity, checking in with cards, phone calls and e-mails. She was a wonderful stepmother and over the years became Granny Jen to nine grandchildren.

Genuinely curious about history, society and literature, Jennifer was always eager to learn. She was working on her master's degree in English literature when she fell ill a year before her death.

She had an innate sensibility for helping the most vulnerable. Perhaps it stemmed from growing up with a half-brother who suffered from schizophrenia, or from combatting her own health problems after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early 40s. She was a strong advocate and supporter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, as well as the Toronto Humane Society. She loved animals and strove to protect all defenceless creatures.

Jennifer's intelligence, wit and wicked sense of humour were gifts she willingly shared, along with her very real compassion for others.

Taulene Ayoub Kagan is Jennifer's stepdaughter.