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Obituary for Judith van Duren

Judith  van Duren
Judith Carolyn van Duren died in the Palliative Care unit of the Colchester East Hants Health Care Centre in Truro, Nova Scotia on Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

Judith was born in Montreal on June 21, 1947, the daughter of Ross and Bess Silversides. The family moved to Toronto in 1949 where her brother Brian was born and where Judith attended elementary and high school. Judith met her husband Charles at the University of Guelph in 1969, and they were married a year later.

After graduating with a degree in geography in 1971, Judith worked as a remote sensing analyst for the government of Canada in Ottawa before deciding that a career as a civil servant was not to her taste. She and Charles moved to the beautiful Gatineau Hills of West Quebec where they homesteaded for four years and learned many valuable lessons. Then after two seasons skiing at Whistler, where Judith tended bar and waitressed, she and Charles returned to school.

In 1986 Judith earned an M.Sc. in Extension Education with distinction from the University of Guelph for a thesis on computer conferencing, the forerunner of modern social media. This resulted in a job at Alberta's Athabasca University where Judith worked primarily with the use of computers in course delivery. Along the way she was asked to be Director of a consortium of Alberta community colleges in their joint efforts to bring post-secondary education to remote and isolated northern communities. After this she turned to the editing of course materials, a job which suited to a tee Judith's attention to detail.

The long days of the northern summers allowed Judith and Charles to indulge their passion for gardening. They grew great quantities of vegetables and fruit, and the hundreds of lilies fronting the garden for half the summer were legendary. When not gardening, Judith volunteered as a literacy tutor, and held most positions, including chair, on the local library board. She was also a very proud member of the Communities in Bloom committee that earned the Town of Athabasca its prestigious “5 Blooms” designation in 2005. The need to escape the long, cold, dark northern winter started Judith and Charles travelling. Their main vacation destination became Mexico where they developed an appreciation for the art, music, food, and customs of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, and started to study the Spanish language.

Although Judith and Charles had planned to retire in Alberta, a Thanksgiving trip to visit old friends along the Parrsboro Shore convinced them to move to Nova Scotia in April 2007. Judith joined the Cobequid Garden Club, and earned a Master Gardener certification from the Agricultural College in Truro. Their house and garden in Soley Cove became a haven of peace and tranquility. Judith continued volunteering and served on the boards of the Veterans Memorial Park and the Elizabeth Bishop Society. She organized the volunteers who clean and maintain the park, as well as doing her monthly shift at the blood clinic at the Bass River Community Health Centre. Along the way rug hooking became a passion, involving weekly gatherings of the Economy Rug Hookers, the annual rug school in May, and the regional hook-ins in the summer. The trips to Mexico and Central America continued, and five winters spent in a village of weavers in Oaxaca, Mexico, resulted in Judith and Charles being “adopted” by a local family.

All this came to an end in mid-February. After seventy and a half years of robust health, Judith was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Since then, with the exception of a respite of two weeks at home, she was in the Palliative Care unit of the Colchester East Hants Health Care Centre in Truro. With her body failing rapidly, and knowing that there was no possibility of recovery, Judith requested Medical Assistance in Dying and was granted her wish. She approached the inevitable end with grace, dignity and courage, and counted her blessings. On May 2 she died holding hands with Charles, with a smile on her face. She was at peace with herself and the world, with no fear, anger or regrets, and grateful for her life.

Judith was a product of her family. Her love of gardening and respect for quality food came from her family, especially her Grandma Ferguson, from her uncle Howard who had green thumbs, fingers, and toes, and from her mother who always cooked from scratch using the freshest ingredients. For Judith her coeliac disease was a nuisance at times, but mostly an opportunity to explore the cuisines of all the world's peoples for whom wheat and dairy are not staple foods. From her Grandma she also learned respect for traditional crafts. Judith's inquisitiveness and love of reading she acquired from her father, the gentle scientist, and from her favourite Aunt Betty, the literature professor, and her feminist instincts were the product of several generations of strong women on both sides of her family. Judith's love of art and travelling were inspired by her parents for whom seeing the world was more important than owning a car, and for whom the art they bought to decorate their home was a form of self-expression.

Judith was pre-deceased by her parents and brother Brian. Judith's generosity of spritit will be missed by family and friends far and wide. She is especially missed by Charles, her partner, friend, and husband of 49 years and by her old tabby cat Barley.

At Judith's request no service is planned. Her ashes will be buried at a later date in a private ceremony with those of her parents and past generations of her mother's family in the little cemetery of St. Andrew's Anglican Church at Garretton in eastern Ontario. There will also be a celebration of Judith's life with her adopted family and friends in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico on the Day of the Dead (November 1).

Judith asked that you support the volunteers and organizations that support you and your community.
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