Smith, Joan

Smith, Joan

February 9th, 2016

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of a remarkable woman, our mother, (Elizabeth) Joan Smith at the age of 88.

Matriarch, philanthropist, politician and friend par excellence, there was no corner of life in which Joan did not show up to leave her indelible mark.

Joan was born in 1928, the youngest of three girls. If she was not the son everyone expected, no matter. She showed up with an indomitable spirit, steely determination and a razor-sharp intelligence. An “army brat,” who moved a lot as a child, she found her own way and made her own happiness.  Her father, Donald MacDonald, a Major-General, the most decorated Canadian soldier in battle in WWI, was her earliest influence. She did not have to be named after him to take after him.

At age 19, Joan met her match, another Donald.  In her third year of university, and at age 21, she established what would become her trademark pace by marrying, graduating from University of Toronto and having the first of her seven children all in the course of 11 months. 

She was every bit the match for her ambitious and admiring husband. A woman of action, she was his touchstone and best critic. She stood fearlessly by him as he risked everything to establish himself in the roller coaster world of general construction. For many, that would have been enough. But Joan was a remarkable woman.

In the late 1960’s, following Vatican II, Joan, a catholic housewife, was honored with an appointment to the local Synod, a body charged with bringing reform to the Catholic Church. She showed up and worked tirelessly for three years with religious and community leaders (mostly men) on that report – a bold first step in establishing herself as a trailblazing, utterly determined and principled woman of action.

Over the course of the next 10 years, Joan served in increasingly responsible capacities for the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, The London Housing Authority, and the United Way very often enjoying the title of “Madame Chair”.   Her crowning achievement was the establishment of a new and badly needed children’s mental health agency in 1965, Madame Vanier Children’s Services. 

It was a natural jump to municipal politics. She had an army of supporters. Her husband (“Mr. Joan Smith” when he was on the campaign trail), her children, her friends, and so many more who had personally been touched by her generosity, all worked tirelessly to help her win. “Politics was not an easy forum for women at that time but social causes found me and I embraced them” she said. She gathered allies and stayed the course making inroads.

In 1985, Joan made the leap to provincial politics. She acquired one of her best wardrobe accessories, a pair of signature “red running shoes” and went out determined to knock on every door in her riding. She brought down a Conservative stronghold and joined the Peterson Liberal government - first as Party Whip and then as Ontario’s first female Solicitor-General.  She worked tirelessly for social change, altering legislation on gay rights and police conduct. It was ironic then, that a social misjudgment resulted in her resignation from cabinet but not her seat. Her supporters rallied around. 

When the Liberals were defeated by Bob Rae’s NDP, Joan didn’t fade back into private life, she stepped up again. She put her energy into promoting and guiding King’s College through a period of vital expansion and growth. She spearheaded financial initiatives and became Chairman of their board.  In 2001 she was honored with a Doctors of Law from Kings College UWO and in 2008 a Fanshawe College Honorary Diploma.  True to form, she took advantage of her moment in the spotlight to call on the graduates “for broader civic involvement…to look around you for creative ways to address the issues of society …If you, our college graduates do not address them as they arise, then who will?”

Though others may see a woman ahead of her time who stepped up every time she saw a door with a crack open, a woman unafraid to be the only woman in the room, it never came at the expense of her stepping down from her family. Family dinners were always an occasion. Everyone was welcome. The more the merrier. Anyone who managed an invitation to a Smith family gathering accepted enthusiastically – and then made sure to read the newspaper in preparation.  They dined on wonderful food and spirited political repartee compliments of Joan. 

So what did Joan do in her ‘spare’ time? She cultivated long-lasting friendships, threw parties and travelled the world, yes the whole world, with her husband. The piece de resistance was the 80th birthday party she threw for herself in France. Picture if you will Joan with her husband, her children, their spouses and all of her grandchildren (even a great grandchild or two) floating on barges down a river in France. She just did not step down!

At the end of her memoirs, Joan wrote, “My deepest wish is that my children and grandchildren will have considered me to be a good role model for them…I realized I had something to give and it could make a positive difference... I trust my family saw that I was putting my values into practice and making a difference in this world where I could”.  Joan is predeceased by her husband.  She is indeed a “role model” to her daughters Catherine Martin and Lynne Cram, to her sons Robert (Terry), Geoff (Megan), Michael (Diane), Donald (Jacqueline), David (Jennifer) and to her twenty-two grandchildren and six and a half great-grandchildren, the last of whom she recently met through the miracle of ultrasound.

Heart felt thanks to her medical team at UH led by Faisal and Bill, Paul, and to her most excellent caregivers Kym and Yolanda who made Joan’s last months so happy.

Friends and family will be received at Windermere Manor, 200 Collip Circle on Thursday February 18th from 1-3 and 7-9.  A Celebration of Joan’s Life will be held in The Student Life Centre at King’s University College, 266 Epworth Ave on February 19th, 2:30 – 5:30, with reflections at 3:30. Please wear colour (red?) in Joan’s memory. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Joan Smith Education Fund at King’s College or to Madame Vanier Children’s Services. 


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Book of Condolences

Susan Horne nee BrookeJoan helped to bring out the confidence in me I didn't know I had. She gave me opportunities to try new things that others thought I could not manage. With her and Don's encouragement and faith in me I have a life that I thought I'd never have. Thank you to the entire Smith family for sharing Joan with all those like me who needed her, hugs and condolences.
Ross and Nancy LamontTo Joan's family. I had the great pleasure of meeting and working with Joan through her work with the Ontario Liberal Party. She was indeed a great role model to many more than just your family. Ross
Lois WillsonI first met Joan at their Grand Bend cottage back in the early 70s as a guest of Cathys. I remember her as being warm, welcoming and hospitable to us. Nothing seemed to phase her despite the fact she had young children running around, guests and, I am sure, many other things on the go. I had the opportunity to reconnect with her at the Windjammer some 40 years later and she was once again a warm, welcoming, bright and fun woman who was full of life. I know she will be sorely missed by her family and my heart goes out to all of you. You were blessed with amazing parents whose legacy lives on through you.
Mohan and Aruna MathurThe world has lost a great person and we have lost a great friend! Joan will always occupy a special place in our hearts and lives. Her friendship and memories will always keep her alive and well in our hearts. She was wise, compassionate, understanding and an outstanding role model. She will be missed.
Lynne and Bob BakerThis great amazing lady will be missed by all who met and knew her through the years. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all the family.
John Jan Drozd JuniorI truly admire the Smith Family. When I had my first full-time job as a project coordinator for Ellis-Don Construction Ltd. at the Toronto Lester B Pearson Terminal II Redevelopment Project after graduating from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, I was having my early 6 am morning chocolate dip doughnut at the J.K. Winter hot dog stand at the Airport, and I noticed my role model Don Smith walk into the airport. I immediately said hi and asked him to visit our site construction trailer. Don smiled. It was a moment that I will never forget. Then when I read the Ontario Living magazine article about Don Smith the Masterbuilder and Joan Smith Ontario's Attorney-General, and how Don and Joan built a loving family by adopting 7 sons, I was overjoyed. I am truly sorry for your loss. Sympathetically, John
the Trumper familyto Lynne....many happy memories of the Smith family and especially the cottage life at Grand Bend and their welcoming cottage to the children in Oakwood. So sorry and we will miss Joan in Grand Bend and London. Nancy Trumper
Elias BoulosI had the pleasure of knowing Joan during her time in Toronto as her hair stylist on Bay Street and always enjoyed our conversations during her twice weekly visits. My recollections were Joan was a radiant and kind woman and proud mother. God bless.
Gary Mallalieu, St. Marys, Ont.I had the pleasure of knowing Joan through her Mother, Mrs Ingram, as my Grandmother, Ethel Mallalieu was her housekeeper. I remember how we loved to see Joan come to 1046 Brough to visit as she always mad a point to talk and spend time with us. The memories of those days are precious and I shall never forget the Ingram/Smith families and my young years in London. It was a few years ago that I met Joan again in Masonville and we had a grand chat. Joan will always be remembered to me as a gracious lady who was friendly, kind, caring and could relate and considered all equal no matter what their background. My condolences to all the family as I know you shall miss her but I truly believe that if you do not have quality in life it does not matter how old or young you are. May I also say that it was a pleasure to have crossed paths with Joan in my lifetime. Gary Mallalieu, on behalf of the Mallalieu Family, St. Marys, Ont.
Pat and Jim VafiadesWe wish to extend our condolences to all of the Smith family in the loss of your mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She was certainly very proud to host her granddaughter Niki's wedding in the fall and to celebrate with family and friends. A woman who accomplished so much, she will be missed. Pat and Jim
Cynthia RobertsonThe last time I saw Joan, about 7 years ago, was upon arrival at the international terminal at Pearson, where we were depositing my mother, Shirley Robertson, for a two week southern sojourn with the Smith posse. The whole group of octogenarians, with Joan and Don at the centre, were having a wonderful time, like school kids on their first trip away. This is a most lovely memory. You have lost a wonderful, intelligent, brave and loving mother and she will be missed, but she has left such a fabulous legacy. Please accept my condolences on behalf of the Robertson family.
Doug & Karen CourtneyOur deepest sympathy to the Smith Family.Her regular yearly conversations out at Casual will be deeply missed by all. God Bless.
Jean POIRIERVery saddened to learn of Joan's passing. I was an MPP at Queen's Park and, hence, I had the pleasure to know Joan as a fellow member of Team Peterson. Joan was a most honorable person, fully committed to the well-being of all Ontarians. Accessible, down-to-earth, generous, and with so many other qualities. I have but great memories of time spend discussing issues with her. I extend to all family members my most sincere condolences at such a painful loss. (Mr.) Jean POIRIER Liberal MPP, Prescott & Russell, 1984-1995
John and Kay Mckeeman (Amica Suite 404)John and I are so sorry to learn of Joans passing. How we will miss our frequent pre dinner drinks with Joan and Kim along with stimulating conversations. Cheers to Joan for a life well lived.
Donna morgenrothmy first taste of champagne was at the Smith's on BaseLine Rd. when Cathy and I were competing for prom queen at Catholic Central. the Smiths entertained all the competitors and their dates to champagne and strawberries,etc. You don't need to win the event to come away feeling like a winner. The Smiths were warm, welcoming and interested in each one of us. there were other visits to the cottage at the Bend and in particular a road trip to somewhere like our religious retreat when Mrs. smith was involved in the church. her conversations were brilliant and enlightening and as a young woman with a career to consider, she inspired me to be the best I could be no matter what the choice would be. cathy thanks for having given me those moments around your loving family. I now live near Lynne and perhaps our paths will cross over time once again. sincere condolences at the loss of your loving mother. Donna Morgenroth(Brown).
Geoff and olga van Der LeeWe wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the entire family on the loss of mother.
Ian & Nancy DantzerI t was with great sadness that we learned of your loss. Joan was a great woman and a fabulous contributor to the world around her-always striving to make it better. She did so with great commitment and energy. She will be sorely missed. Aside from her public persona she was a great person to know and a constant inspiration. She had a great love for, and interest in, life. I know you will miss her and we extend our sympathy and support to you her family in this your time of loss.
Robin EtheringtonMark (my brother) and I are truly sadden to hear about your Mother's (Joan) passing. We have fond memories of growing up with all of you on the same street in London. And we have strong and powerful memories of your Mother both in your home and in all of her activities throughout the community. She was an amazing & thoughtful person and community leader. Our sisters Martha and Becky were younger and do not have the same memories. However they also send you their condolences. Please know that you are in our hearts and prayers.
Shirley Shore and Lloyd BoughnerOur condolences to Mike and Diane and all their family. We had the pleasure of meeting and nice conversation on a few occasions. What a remarkable lady and gifted in so many ways. Sincerely Shirley and Lloyd
Jessica Montgomery & Colin McCleary Our sincerest condolences to the family. We have had the chance to meet Joan over the course of our lives, she was a wonderful woman. All our sympathy and support to the family in your time of loss. May we always cherish her great life.
David CookeI, too, sat in the Legislature with Joan (1985-90, MPP Kitchener). She seemed like an older sister to me. She proved a caring and guiding friend while still fulfilling her role, not an easy one in minority government times, of chief government whip. Don and Joan also introduced me to some of their children and I was very impressed.. I think Joan's alleged "indiscretion" was really just one more example of her compassion As I approach my final few years, I am 10 years yongert than Joan, I find myself very fortunate in that, as I read her obituary, she is still serving as a mentor
Elyse Bondy To my dear friend Shannon and your family, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your Grandmother. I know she will be truly missed as grandparents are a special part of the family bond. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time. Love, Elyse
Kelly RodgersI am so sorry that I could not be with you in person to celebrate your Mom's life and reminisce about the days in south London.
Mary Pat TillmannDear Cathy, Lynne, Bob, Geoff, Michael, Don and David, My thoughts, prayers and wonderful fun memories are with you all today. We all had remarkable parents and role models with many facets. STRONG doesn't even begin to describe it! Your mother always fascinated me with her passion and ability to get others to be on board. Absolutely a role model for me in my work and in social causes. The taking in the 21 Homeless Tillmanns during the great ice storm was only the beginning. My involvement with your mother, David Peterson, the Beechies, McNees, Pensas etc. during the Liberal campaigns always fun and serious at the same time. My hope for all of you is to capture and maintain all of the best qualities and inspiration which were so beautifully written in your obituary for her. She was courageous, witty, forthright and fearless. An inspiring feminist in all of the best ways. Much love and many happy memories, Mary Pat
Betsy and Sheldon AaronDear Catherine, Lynne, Robert, Geoff, Michael, David and Donald, Our sincere condolences to each of you and your families. Your mother was a wonderful person, a great neighbor and more than anything we enjoyed her friendship. She will be sadly missed. Betsy and Sheldon Aaron
Karen Burns (nee Kondi)How beautifully written your words give tribute to your Mother an inspiring and accomplished lady. I remember fondly being included in several of the energetic and lively Smith family dinners and gatherings and they truly were, a great occasion! I am grateful to have had that time which was my beginning for a long and lovely friendship with Joan. For me Joan modeled strength, wisdom, intelligence, compassion, integrity and wit. In her honor I will continue to look for creative ways to address issues and make a positive difference while maintaining personal values. In my absence at this time, I offer a toast, to Joan in celebrating her well lived, energetic and committed life. We send our sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathy to all family members. Sincerely, Karen Burns (nee Kondi), Stuart and Kevin Burns
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