Do you know the song “Smile” By Nat King Cole? Here’s the You tube link … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-WqFUnqhSc
It’s the perfect song to describe Fay. She ALWAYS smiled. Even when her heart was breaking.
I have known Fay since her daughter Tammy missed the bus home from Downtown Edmonton. She was with her drama class at the Citadel Theatre and she and her friend wandered off and the bus left to go back to the school without them. Fay and Bonnie came to the school to TALK to the Drama teacher. I was acting principal that day. The Drama teacher was suitably contrite and agreed that she had a responsibility to get them home. I had to interject to ensure that the girls also know that they had messed up and had just as much responsibility to stay with the teacher and the bus. That was our first impression of each other.
A few months later I became the VP in the school that Fay owned. She was the secretary at Bon Accord School and she ruled it with good humour and no nonsense. She was so fun to work with. You couldn’t really call her sympathetic with the students. She rarely coddled them. But she had this smile and this laugh that made everything okay. I was only there two years like many of the administrators that came and went as Fay continued to run the school. It as a GREAT school. It still is. The camaraderie continues thanks in large part to the support staff and the king pin, Fay’s best friend, Bonnie. The staff still get together and although I left there in 1992 and Fay left in 1999 everyone who ever worked there is always invited to celebrate whatever the occasion.
As it turned out Fay and I both moved to Calgary. Her family was there and she wanted to be closer especially to her mum who was dealing with Alzheimer’s. She loved her family, her kids and her grandkids and she loved taking pictures of them. Her house was full of portraits of all the people and pets that she loved. Her brother and sister in law and the extended family became a big part of her life. Her pets were family too and it was hard for her to let them go. It was so fitting that when she retired she began to work with guide dogs and even more fitting that her guide dog friends would form a guard of honour at her memorial service. There were no dry eyes walking between the two rows for well behaved dogs sitting quietly as we passed. It was a great tribute to a fantastic and dedicated per person.
She never lost the Bon Accord connection. Those people she worked with and raised kids with remained close to her despite the miles. Although she had left many years before she was still one of them, sharing in their lives as best she could at a distance. A testament to that was the great numbers who attended her memorial travelling 300 k to say farewell to their wonderful friend. It was a hug fest for sure and so wonderful to see everyone again and remember the stories that we all shared with Fay.
I was so fortunate that Fay moved to Calgary. I got to know her in both places Bon Accord and Calgary. I had moved to attend University the year before she did. The Bon Accord network made sure we connected with each other and we started to go to Weight Watchers on Tuesday nights and then dinner using a coupon book she had purchased at work. Soon we just did dinner. We had a standing date on Tuesdays for 15 years. We had so many laughs and so many tears over the years. People would join us on Tuesdays and remain in the group for a while. One of our dear Tuesday night friends passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve in 2004. After that the group solidified to Carol, Laurie, my sister-in-law Yvonne who had moved from Ontario, Fay and I. We went to different restaurants and had Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc every Tuesday that we could. Sometimes I was travelling or others couldn’t make it but it was our night.
Movies were a favourite topic. Fay loved movies and collected them. So did Laurie and Carol. So we started Movie Weekends for the Tuesday girls where we would have breakfast Saturday, head to the mountains, arrive at the condo in Canmore and put on our pajamas and watch at least 5 movies before we had lunch and went home on Sunday. Once or twice a year we made the trek. We always included a trip to the hot tub where we would inevitable make friends with people watching from their balconies or in the hallways. The laughter was contagious and we had SO MUCH FUN.
Tuesdays were just special to us. One Tuesday I was dining with the Queen in Edmonton. Another I was in Ottawa at a George Bush state dinner. They were always with me in spirit …every Tuesday wherever I was in the world. When Obama was inaugurated it was a Tuesday. I got the menu for the luncheon off the internet, recorded the ceremony and we ate what they ate that night… a meal based on Lincoln’s inaugural lunch. That was our first taste of Duckhorn wine which was served at the White House that day and at the Signal Hill house and became our second favourite wine.
Many Tuesdays it was just Fay and me. She was my friend. She was such a good listener, always providing a counter view to my sometimes warped view of a situation. She worked with me to transcribe my research interviews for my PhD. She was the photographer at my wedding. She helped with my business. She took care of me. Just the way she took care of everyone … with the no nonsense Fay truth that I had come to value greatly. And there was always the SMILE and the Fay hugs. Even when things were not going well, she smiled.
It was shocking when she got sick. We watched her battle her way through and out the other side a couple of times. And it was shocking when we lost her.
I cannot express how grateful I am that she was in my life. She is always with me, especially on Tuesdays. After her memorial, the remaining Tuesday night girls went to one of our favourite restaurants. It was Tuesday on Friday. We told Fay stories and toasted her with her favourite Cakebread wine.
To FAY and to Tuesdays… forever with us.