EPRILE email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-07-14 published
By Jamie SWIFT, Paul EPRILE, Monday, July 14, 2003 - Page A18
Jamie and Paul are Friends of Doris
Homemaker, teacher, writer, visionary. Born January 4, 1911, in Killarney, Manitoba Died January 15, in Toronto, of old age, aged 92.
When we first got to know Doris MARSHALL in the mid 1970s, we encountered everyone's grandmother. She served her famous biscuits and lemon tarts accompanied by tea in delicate porcelain cups. Perhaps it would be homemade oat-cakes and cheese with sherry. A minister's widow, she seemed to fit the little-old-lady stereotype right down to the tissue tucked under her well-ironed cuff.
But that wasn't all she kept up her sleeve. Doris had a passion for social justice. Anything showing old people in isolation or robbed of dignity made her shudder. Once the tea was poured, she would extract an item she had carefully clipped: it could be any news item hinting that old people are somehow a problem to be solved.
While preparing her 1987 book on aging, Doris maintained a unique filing system involving paper clips, hundreds of clippings, and handwritten notes inscribed on the clippings themselves, to save paper. Doris knew how to stretch what she had. She was the oldest of eight children from a Manitoba farm family. Because her mother preferred outdoor work, Doris began to cook for a family of 10 plus guests -- as a young teenager. Her work as a live-in housekeeper financed her studies at Winnipeg's United College, where she met George MARSHALL. Before marrying, she spent four years in Norway House, working at a residential school.
She realized that teaching sewing and music to aboriginal children left them ill-equipped for life in either white or native society. After a stint in The Pas as the "minister's wife," she settled in Winnipeg with her husband and three daughters: Brenda, Judith, and Mary. While doing community work, she helped organize Winnipeg's first Indian Friendship Centre.
Doris became a single mother with George's death in 1959. Her new parish job at Westminster United Church led to work with the neighbourhood old ones -- she abhorred the term "seniors." This be came her passion. She soon found herself at the United Church's Toronto head office, working in the field of aging.
Doris never saw herself as a gerontology specialist. One of the lessons she drew from her Norway House experience was the way in which native culture valued and cared for elders in the community. These lessons were reinforced in her travels to China, Ghana and Mozambique.
"We must discover new family and neighbourhood relationships," she would later write. "Helping one another and fighting together for just and fair treatment for all would be the rallying point for a different kind of extended family."
Doris found a new extended family in and around the Development Education Centre, where a community of younger people shared her vision. She proceeded to organize a group of elders. Then she wrote a book, Silver Threads: Critical Reflections on Growing Old.
She used her life as a prism through which the problems of aging are reflected. Her 1988 national promotion tour, under taken at age 78, took the book into a second edition. The tour included a visit to grand_son Jama's Grade 2 class as his "show-and-tell." He was the only one with a grandmother who was also an author.
Doris lived independently in her tidy Annex apartment, with its lace doilies and family keepsakes, until 1999. Her capacities diminished, her family knew that she did not want to enter long-term care. But she was, as usual, gracious in accepting what she could not change.
She once said that she agreed with physicist Ursula FRANKLIN's vision of the ideal society. It's like a potluck supper -- everyone brings something and everyone gets something. Doris brought the best she had. And she shared it all around.
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