CICCONE email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-05-14 published
Glenna (FIRTH) CICCONE
By Patrick CICCONE and Antonio CICCONE Wednesday, May 14, 2003 - Page A18
Mother, iconoclast, farm worker, sportswoman, world traveller. Born April 3, 1944, in Timmins, Ontario Died March 13, in Parry Sound, Ontario, of cancer, aged 58.
Glenna was a small-framed woman, yet she always appeared much taller than her actual size. Not endowed with conventional beauty, her darting blue eyes, sharp tanned features and thick, white, shoulder-length hair always made her stand out in a crowd.
Her father, William FIRTH, was the son of a stern United Church minister from New Brunswick. Her mother, Sarah JUDGE, born into a staunch French/Irish Catholic family from Buckingham, Quebec, was a steely, no-nonsense nurse. When the two married in Timmins, Ontario, none of their family members showed up.
Glenna had a mind of her own: At 3, in one of those obligatory pony portraits of the day, she sits warily on top of a cute black-and-white pony. From the girlish scowl on her chubby cheeks, you knew that she wanted no part of it.
After graduating from teachers' college, while colleagues fretted over careers and bungalows in the suburbs, she hitchhiked from Morocco to Oslo, occasionally teaching in various Montessori schools.
Glenna wasn't just unpredictable, she was outspoken. As a teacher in Timmins, she was posted to an open-concept school. While her colleagues complained privately, she would declare at every opportunity: "It stinks." Unrepentant, she resigned before certain dismissal.
But it was Glenna's childlike enthusiasm that really set her apart. As a newlywed, she and her husband Tony moved to a three-acre lot in Timmins. This was her paradise-by-the-lake. Still, even it could do with an adjustment. Thus, in the early 1970s, Glenna's vehicle of choice was a heavy duty 4x4 Dodge Extendacab.
"It'll help me with the rocks and trees," she concluded. She eventually transplanted more than 160 trees, many more than eight feet tall. And her massive retaining rock wall would have made any Italian mason proud.
This enthusiasm spilled over to skiing and swimming, her favourite sports. If she was swimming, she had to swim across the lake. If she was on the trail, nothing less than a combined 15 and 10 kilometre run would suffice, and if she was on the slopes, a stop at the chalet was a sacrilege.
As a mother, nothing changed. As soon as her son Patrick started walking, she strapped a pair of tiny skis to his feet. While others carted their children to the local pool for lessons, she urged him to swim across the lake with her.
Even in the face of serious sickness and economic misfortune, her enthusiasm never wavered. In 1992, she survived surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer; in 1993, after devastating economic losses, she was forced to move with her family to rural Abruzzo, Italy. Relishing her new role, she relentlessly weeded and pruned the family olive grove and fruit garden, even if her zeal occasionally raised an eyebrow with her father-in-law.
In no other case was her enthusiasm more evident than with Nicki, the family's pet husky. Precisely at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. each day she fed (always in a very clean bowl) and walked Nicki. The 2 p.m. walk was usually a three-hour trek.
In 2003, on her annual visit to Parry Sound, she discovered that the cancer had metastasized to her liver. When told that she could not donate her organs, she immediately bequeathed her body to the anatomy department at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine.
Love her or hate her, the people who either knew Glenna or saw her with Nicki would agree that she was always true to herself and that she added brilliant colour to the tapestry of human existence.
Antonio is Glenna's husband, Patrick her son.
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