With deep sorrow we have to report that the Academy has lost one of our most distinguished trio of Life Members, Margaret Robertson. On Wednesday July 17th, in the comfort of her own home, she was surrounded by close friends as she chose to end her intolerable pain.
Many of us will have warm memories of Margaret’s wit and wisdom and her enquiring mind. She did so much for us. She was unfailingly kind and generous with her time and she was our collective memory – “ask Margaret, she will know” was the answer to most questions. We are bereft.
A few of the people who knew her best have graciously agreed to share some of their memories with us.
Sheilagh Hickie remembers the early days of their friendship:
My first contact with Margaret was in Montreal in a phone conversation when I was trying to sell advertising space in a hotel magazine to Margaret’s account, Tilden Rent-A-Car. She was the account executive in an agency there. We were in touch again for the same client when I moved to Toronto to the advertising department of The Financial Post. I didn’t actually meet her until I joined the Academy in about 1996. Margaret had just become Past President at the first AGM I attended. There was a problem finding a chair for the Communications Committee and Margaret stopped me to say, well you could do it! I remember saying I’ve just joined but that was no excuse and as Margaret proved throughout her life, she had an extraordinary ability to get people to take on tasks in which they grew and contributed to the Academy. She was an example of this as she set up the Academy’s computer systems and moved us into the great organization we are today.
Wendy Warrillow recalls her friend:
I am feeling rather overwhelmed. It really is a great loss. Margaret was a woman of great personal charm and with a fine sense of humour. As we all know, she made friends with ease and kept them She was extremely intelligent, well informed and full of energy. She loved to be contrarian in a discussion and could certainly make one think!
Margaret’s contribution to the Academy was extraordinary. She is right up there with Jean Iverson. She was technically competent before it became the norm and put many systems in place for us. At one time I would say she was working almost full time for the Academy. Not to mention all the committees etc. I will miss her greatly. Six of us met for lunch at each other’s houses several times a year and the discussion would go on for a long time! Now we shall be only five
Rest in peace, Margaret.
Her friend and neighbour, Rhona Wolpert offers this appreciation of Margaret’s indefatigable efforts on our behalf:
Margaret made an enormous contribution to the Academy’s Membership Committee over many years introducing a database and online payment to simplify and refine registration procedures. She trained new members and ensured continuity and accuracy of data entry. The statistical charts she created provided interesting and useful information on our membership. Her warm home welcomed many meetings making them informal and pleasurable. Latterly she was a wonderful addition to and participant in our condo on Yonge Street.
More reminiscences from Brian O’Leary:
At 7:30 on a summer evening, Margaret left us.
She attended The Economist Readers showing her usual verve with inquiring comments, lunched with friends a few days before. But she could neither eat nor drink as her jaw pained her so.
If you didn’t know Margaret, you didn't know that she quietly kept the Academy going for many, many years. All the info, the facts, the ages, the addresses she knew and published. She provided charts of where we lived, the average age. She shepherded a group of film goers, she was an ex-officio strength of the Communications Committee for decades. She provided printed name cards for each member of any workshop in which she enrolled. And it was all done with a quiet sense of humour and love of the group. If there was one thing she could not abide, it was any mention, any public recognition. But quiet though she was, she was an inspiration to all who were lucky enough to work with her.
She who climbed Kilimanjaro, bungee jumped, walked solo the trails of New Zealand, kept control to the end. Her party of 50+ wined and ate as she prepared for her final hour. Even as the chosen few entered her bed room, to the strains of For She's A Jolly Good Fellow, Margaret was still directing traffic.
A very special lady, loved, admired, missed by all.
A thousand hugs from Linda Tu:
Margaret will be missed by so many people for scores of reasons. I, among many, considered her a dear friend. She and I joined the Academy on the same day in 1994 after having met the previous year at a seminar series at the School of Continuing Studies hosted by Colin Wolfe, one of the founders of the Academy.
Margaret was able to master the intricacies of computers and web- mastering from scratch, much to the Academy’s benefit. She competently led the Academy as its President. She was the epitome of the ideal Academy member, a classy lady indeed.
This characteristic was so much in evidence in the nature of her death. She had arranged to leave this physical world on her own terms with the assistance of MAID. On the day of her departure, July 17th, she invited a large group of people to her apartment for a wine and cheese party to, as she said, “see me off on my next journey". We didn't really know what to expect....
Margaret was the gracious hostess that she had always been, to the very end of her life. It was an evening of a thousand hugs, some tears, and a huge admiration for Margaret. Her death was peaceful. She has set an example to many of us about how an inevitable departure can be handled with grace and courage.
Josie Szczasiuk also describes her close friend’s inspiring final hours:
Surrounded by about 20 or so of her close friends and some of the Guilderdale family packed into her bedroom, Margaret slipped away peacefully in her own bed with the help of two people from MAiD’s. She passed away very quickly, within a few minutes.
She was Margaret right to the end, lucid, authoritative, positive: questioning why she had two sets of intravenous tubes if the docs were only going to bother to use one set, giving her latest Economist magazine to Linda and admonishing Linda to conduct a good workshop with it, etc.
I think that over the course of the almost 3 hr get together and even the beginning of her actual passing, she was the life of the party.
She’s promised to send a message if she finds there’s something on the other side.
Free from pain at last and organizing whatever needs organizing on the other side I’m sure!
I think Mark (Abbott) said it best: that ‘we’ve witnessed the passing of a noble woman’.
Rest in peace, dear friend
Thank you all for sharing these memories with us.
If you have any memories of Margaret that you would like to share with us, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org