EDMONDS firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-10-30 published
Dorothy Jean McKNIGHT
By Scott EDMONDS, Thursday, October 30, 2003 - Page A24
Social worker, academic, mother, grandmother, friend. Born October 12, 1930, in Burford Ontario Died September 8, in Kitchener, Ontario, of pneumonia, aged 72.
Dorothy McKNIGHT lived two lives. Her first a simple one, as a mother, a wife, a Girl Guide leader and a camp volunteer. The second, more complex, and for her and the people she touched, much more rewarding: as a social worker, an advocate for the disadvantaged, a friend and community volunteer, but still at heart, a mother, and later, even more to her liking, a grandmother.
In her late thirties, finding herself in an unhappy marriage, and working as an hourly retail worker, Dorothy decided there must be more, and she was determined to find out what it was. She started with night school and weekend classes at what was then Waterloo Lutheran University, commuting the 30 miles from Woodstock, Ontario, to take classes and eventually earn her high-school equivalency diploma. Armed with this, and a renewed self-confidence, she left her husband and moved herself and her four children to Waterloo, where, in her words, "My kids will get a better education than I did." But Dorothy didn't stop there, earning first a bachelor's degree in psychology, and later a master's degree in social work, both from Waterloo Lutheran University. All the while, she was raising her children virtually on her own and, true to her plan, ensuring they each ended up graduating not just from high-school but going on to finish college or university.
After completing her master's and working as a professional social worker, she took on some of the toughest cases: she counselled abused children and spouses, she worked with troubled teens, and shut-ins, and she helped police officers and other emergency workers suffering from exposure to trauma. Despite the demands of work and family, she kept up her volunteer work with her church, the John Howard Society and the Ontario Association of Social Workers. She ran seminars on retirement and transition planning for seniors, she wrote articles for publication, she attended a creative writing course at University of British Columbia, where she fell in love with the mountains and the ocean. She completed pre-doctorate courses at Smith College in Boston, legally changed her family name back to McKNIGHT, and, never one to shirk from a cause she believed in, once caused a furor that reached the Ontario Legislature with her research on the over-medication of the elderly.
No matter what else she had on the go, Dorothy remained dedicated to her family, never missing or failing to make an occasion out of a birthday, and travelling as far as Singapore to see each one of her nine grandchildren when they arrived.
As spirited as she was determined, Dorothy went out of her way to make the most of her life, and the freedom she had worked so hard to earn. She travelled and partied; she loved to host elaborate dinner parties where the wine flowed freely. She made Friends everywhere she went, with people of all backgrounds. She was as comfortable with the young as she was with her contemporaries, in many cases befriending the Friends of her children. Through her book club and dinner club, she made new Friends right up until the end. She also remained independent, declining a gratuitously offered hug with an emphatic "No" on one of her last clear and lucid days.
In the end, it wasn't really pneumonia that killed Dorothy, it was a conspiracy of the body against the spirit. Suffering complications after determinedly making an initial recovery from a stroke she suffered in 2002, Dorothy's body simply couldn't keep up with the demands placed on it. She died peacefully, attended by her children.
Scott EDMONDS is Dorothy's son.
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