“I sing the progress of a deathless soul”— John Donne
Neighbours, family, and friends were stunned by the sudden death of someone who could be counted on for support, intelligence, and humour—Veronica Vaillancourt.
Veronica may be familiar even if she was not a neighbour or friend. Her passion for, and knowledge of, heritage matters were invaluable to Sandy Hill.
I became acquainted with Veronica when we served as committee chairs on the board of Action Sandy Hill. Though somewhat in awe, I was immediately drawn to her charismatic enthusiasm. She was a collegial community activist especially on heritage and planning fronts. Veronica reliably spoke out, crafted letters, kept informed, and attended meetings.
Veronica’s passion for heritage was also exemplified in her beautiful Philomene Terrace home. The integrity of that 1857 structure was a priority and she spared no effort or expense on its preservation.
Over time we became good friends and neighbours. We often walked and talked—our conversations were open, never ending, hilarious, serious, confessional. We shared an irreverent attitude to pomposity and old boys’ networks.
Veronica was a beautiful person—both an inspiration and a dissuasion to those of us somewhat younger. At 87 she was brilliantly fit and alert. Could we dare aspire to such a state? Veronica was not only younger than her years in appearance, flexibility, and energy, she exemplified the TVO commercial “never stop learning.”
She was a really good sport—a cross- country ski companion, one of the few who would still join me to skate on the canal (before her knee replacement), our Tai Chi comrade and, more recently, she was taking part in aqua fit, Nordic walking, and African drumming.
Veronica was our go-to travel consultant as she always kept meticulous records of her wide-ranging world adventures which she generously shared. Her notes and stories of exotic, faraway places were almost enough to satisfy our travel dreams.
We often spontaneously agreed to meet at the ByTowne and later, over a glass of wine, to discuss the film we had just seen. She augmented or increased our interest in theatre, dance, music, and history. Though I am not an opera fan, Veronica’s devotion affected my appreciation. I was enthralled by her accounts of the many productions she enjoyed at the New York Metropolitan or in Toronto and all over Europe. Many evenings in her company were about books. Between us we belonged to three book clubs so we had varying perspectives to consider.
We compared our grandmotherhood—her more numerous and older brood of grandchildren affirmed her status as mentor grand-mère. Her interest in everyone and everything was contagious and stimulating.
Veronica’s absence is acutely felt—we have lost a remarkable person who will not be replaced.
…some we loved, the loveliest and best
That time and fate of all their vintage prest
Have drunk their cup a round or two before
And one by one crept silently to rest.
Edward Fitzgerald, The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyá