Teacher, storyteller, wife, mother, fiercely loyal friend. Born Sept. 22, 1953, in Nanaimo, B.C.; died May 2, 2013, in Nanaimo of colon cancer, aged 59.
Teaching was in Kathryn Maurer's DNA – it was her passion. In her innumerable elementary, high school and college classrooms, she transformed anglophone students into French speakers and learning-challenged children into fluent readers.
One of three children of Peter and Doreen Maurer, Kathryn grew up in Lantzville and Nanaimo, B.C. After completing her undergraduate degree in education at the University of Victoria in 1975, her love of travel and languages took her to Quebec City, where she lived for two years, becoming fluent in French. Back in British Columbia, she spent a year at Simon Fraser University as a faculty associate, teaching and mentoring new teachers of French immersion. A few years later she earned a master's degree in education at SFU.
After observing that there was a lack of textbooks for early learners of French, she and a colleague wrote and published a series of readers. Almost 13,000 have been sold in five provinces since 1999. Kathryn used her talent for photography to produce images for the books. She also made greeting cards from her nature photography.
Kathryn loved storytelling, amassing a library of books on the subject and cofounding a storytellers' circle in Nanaimo. An avid reader, she was always a member of at least one book club. She was equally passionate about music and films.
The common thread among all her activities was Kathryn's genuine interest in people. She was the embodiment of collegiality, always ready to connect people with sources of information and support. Her thoughtfulness, generosity and loyalty were unparalleled.
Kathryn had a son, Julien, from her first marriage. I was lucky enough to meet her in 1999, two years after the death of my wife.
I learned from her that good teachers are overworked and undervalued. Kathryn also taught me to appreciate good coffee and dark chocolate. She was less successful in teaching me to appreciate fine Scotch.
Some years ago we had a drink before attending a play. Kathryn ordered some single malt Scotch or another – they didn't have her beloved Lagavulin. The bartender said, "Will that be the 12-, the 15- or the 18-year-old?" Both of them must have noticed me roll my eyes, because in one breath they insisted there's a great difference. Philistine that I am, I scoffed. So the bartender set before Kathryn three unlabeled shot glasses, each containing a splash of what I saw as overpriced amber liquid. She tasted them and, unhesitatingly and correctly, identified each. Kathryn was rarely wrong – about anything.
One often hears of a person having touched the lives of many; Kathryn inarguably changed the lives of many. Ask any number of people who, as youngsters, struggled to make sense of the printed page. Ask her treasured niece Rochelle, to whom Kathryn provided surrogate parental guidance at a time of great need. Or ask me, whose life she also changed for the better, in so many ways. We were lucky to have her.
Marty Spencer is Kathryn's partner.