Joan Arlene Jilks
1925 - 2006
The story of mom's cancer and dad's brain tumour
Photo taken: Aug. 22, 2002
Official Death Notice
JILKS, Joan Arlene – Passed away peacefully at her home in Bala on Saturday, May 13, 2006. After a valiant fight with cancer, Joan A. Jilks passed away in her 81st year. Beloved wife to Raymond Dane Jilks(1925 - 2007) of Bala. Dear mother to Jennifer Ann (Brian) Jilks-Racine, formerly of Ottawa, and Robin Frederick Jilks of Campbell River, B.C. Beloved grandmother to Caitlin, Jesse, Terry and Keegan.Survived by her sister Margaret Simmons of Lethbridge. Predeceased by her sisters Lillian and Marion and by her brother Frederick. The family will receive friends at W.J. Cavill Funeral Home in Gravenhurst on Friday, May 19, 2006 from 7-9 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. Cremation has taken place. A celebration of life for Joan Arlene Jilks will take place at the Bala United Church at a later date. If so desired, donations to the Canadian Cancer Society or to the Bala United Church would be appreciated. The family would like to thank the staff of C.C.A.C. and all our friends who supported us in our time of need.
Memorial Notice in the Toronto Star
The nurses, support staff, and Dr. Krawitz made numerous house calls to help Joan pass peacefully. She was 'She Who Knows Best' until the end, still in charge. The ambulance crews who took both Joan and Ray to hopsital several times in the month of May, were superb, as well as the volunteer firefighters who helped in their time of need. Neighbours were terrific as they ensured that many needs were met. We would like to thank them all.
After a four year fight against cancer mom was determined to stay in her own home. Robin and Jennifer both took time off work to help secure home care for both of their parents this last month. Raymond in now living at Gravenhurst Manor, a great place to live. When Robin and Brian went to check the place out Robin offered Brian up as a poential resident - his "older brother". Brian and Jennifer are about ready for a room of their own!Ray is living there quite comfortably, with home support from the wonderful folks at CCAC.
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The last time we had a big family celebration was a year ago Monday for Caitlin and Jean-Luc’s wedding. That was an event. I think mom learned to manage her course of cancer the way Caitlin and Jean-Luc managed the wedding. There were in-laws and out-laws and three step-parents of various persuasions. The bride and groom handled it with great dignity. And no one had all the information. It was a lesson in UN diplomacy. Mom was so very happy that Robin picked her up and drove her to Ottawa for the big event. I am grateful to him for that. It meant a great deal to all of us.
Mom was stoic until the end. She handled her cancer treatments and her battle with this disease; tumours # 6 and 7 this past Spring with all the secrecy of a UN Diplomatic negotiation. No one really had all of the information at one time. She parceled out chores to some people, many people endlessly picked things up for her, Cancer Society volunteers driving her and dad around to appointments, filling innumerable prescriptions for us. Neighbours were marvellous and her friends were very kind. It seemed as if it was one thing after another. Momsimply managed each new crisis as it arose; popped on the phone tree and assigned tasks. She was hopeful and optimistic to the end. Her great faith carried her through.
As I sat writing this, May 17th, it darkened and started to rain. Mom said we needed rain last Friday. It rained every day for a week after she died. Or maybe I’m not writing something quite right and she was reading over my shoulder, unhappy with a turn of phrase! She just knew how to do everything with panache; perfect in every way, in style. She had to keep up with her older, wiser big sister! Most of the time, as a baby sister, she was carefully guided in all she did! She felt she must live up to high standards.
This past week was the most difficult week of my life in regards to my mother. I have had other troubling times, but mom, of course, was always there to help me through them. The first biggie was when I was in high school but she handled the whole deal. I remember applying for University and not being accepted. Some high school secretary had left off one of my credits in my application form and it appeared that I couldn’t be accepted. She got on the phone to Ryerson’s registrar’s office and they said they would fix it by putting me on a waiting list. That would not do for mom. Through her Rotary Club contact; he was the president of the University, as I recall. Mom knew whom to call to make it so!
The thing about a mom is she knows you best. Of course there was Mom’s way and the wrong way, but I learned a great deal about life. She always quoted Nanny’s wise words. She didn’t often tell me what to do to solve a problem, not since I got married, anyway – she listened to my pain and if she thought I was doing the wrong thing there would be a pause and an “Uh hum”, said with a distinctly opinionated air.
I refuse to remember the woman who was here for the last two weeks. Mom turned into a crotchety Mother Bear protecting and our dad. I suspect that she thought mine and Rob’s agenda was to try and put her into a home. This is what I attribute it all to, starting with a neighbour who made the comment it went down hill from there. That was when she withdrew and began to take even more control. She didn’t want Robin driving dad down to the lodge in Toronto. She knew that when Robin was 18 he missed a New Year’s party and was late. He couldn’t be depended upon. I sat there trying to explain that he’s managed to make his flights to and from work, is raising his son, Keegan, and that I thought he really could handle the job. Dad and I had a great moment as she phoned from Soldier’s Memorial hospital. She said the “whisked her off the street and admitted her”, she wasn’t prepared, she wasn’t in control – she could handle anything if she had time to plan and take charge of it. She was phoning poor Mavis and Judy trying. I could see how upsetting it would be to her.
Christine, the really wonderful health nurse, left on Thursday and said she is now figuring out what was going on and that mom was trying to hide the pain she was experiencing; from the doctors, health care providers, her visitors and all of the many Community Care Access (CCAC) people with whom we were working. And it was a team. I deliberately to use the royal “we”. I tried to get help from everyone I could and every time they would contact mom they would be told that ‘Everything is fine, dear”. She was firm, determined and positive until this last week. Her strength, her fortitude and her courage allowed her to fight this battle with cancer until, truthfully, this past couple of weeks.
This past week I had to deal with ‘She Who Knows Best”, and a Commander-in-Chief who was not admitting to her pain and was not telling anyone what was going on. In her attempts to fight an imagined battle, when refused home care, visits of health care professionals who quite willingly would help us keep the house clean, do laundry, etc. I won that battle by telling her I needed someone here for me, as I trotted off to deliver an exemplary curriculum to my four wonderful students in Parry Sound. I really upset her to have someone in here doing, obviously less than perfect job in her home.
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She had high standards as a hostess. I remember popping in at the house on Walker Ave. one day. We lived in East York and she was throwing me a party – I forget what for, she was famous for her parties: everything just set up just so, the drinks all laid out, cups here, plates there. Everything was perfect, especially for a control-freak perfectionist who had a bevy of friends who entertained with a panache met and surpassed only by mom. Of course, I spoiled the part because it was meant to be a surprise for me. She hated it when things didn’t go the RIGHT WAY. She spent much time and energy making things just right for everyone around her. She felt an obligation and a responsibility to make things perfect for all of us. No expense spared, no time wasted.
Talking about entertaining… once mom and dad began living up here they would throw their traditional Xmas Open Houses. Up in Bala the tradition carried on. One Fall, when I was between accountant husbands, I drove up and stayed with a friend. I TOTALLY surprised her, which was pretty much hard to do, but I truthfully ran away from home and turned up on her doorstep for her party. She was thrilled and, again, everything was set out just so. Dad was the wine steward and all was well with the world. Their last party they had catered, which must have been difficult for her. It was in 2003, just after their illnesses started.
Stuffing her wicker hanging basket chair into the teeny VW Beetle at Yonge and St. Clair, to take it down to the house for her birthday. She had her heart set on it. She spent many hours sitting in her chair at the cottage. When they built the house, she told me, she would often go back over to the cottage and put it back up on the hook and sit and swing quietly mourning the passing of summer or our visits.
I remember waiting with her- come rain or shine on a Friday night. We would camp out at the corner of highway 169 and Windsor drive until dad arrived from Toronto. Dad had spent the week on his own and would faithfully drive up. When we got older, had summer jobs, we would stay with dad and we would have steak, eat out, and try to manage without her.
I remember sitting reading the picture book that spoke of adoption. I was always told I was chosen and being told I was chosen for my musical background, since that was very important to mom.
Annually we would go with our dear friends to chop down a Christmas tree. Caitlin has perpetuated that tradition with her dear husband Jean-Luc. Mom always set the house up the house JUST SO at Christmas time. She loved that time of year. They always had an open house.
Mom and/or dad attended every swim team meet and every concert in which I sang - the one time they went out of town – won free trip, I think, Her dear friend, Pat Scythes, had the job of attending my final Jarvis Collegiate concert because mom could not be there. She was my surrogate mom. Mom made sure I was supported.
Hanging around church choir practices when I was 13 and joining the choir with mom and dad, singing in the North York Chorus with them and the famous Wine & Cheese concert we had. I stayed in the church choir with them until shortly after high school, but I did attend a number of their Gilbert & Sullivan performances. Mom had such fun with those. I sent them a book “Then Sings My Soul”, 150 of the world’s greatest hymn and inside I inscribed it "To mom and dad who helped ME sing and find my voice”.
Mom and dad both worked at Canada hardware up until the time I was adopted. Every time I was cleaning out a purse, drawer or nook and cranny after she passed I found another tape measure.As I wrote her eulogy I had left out her years with Canada Hardware.
Mom worked 29 years for the Rotary Club of Toronto. Going with mom down the Rotary Club, housed in the Royal York Hotel, was a big treat: great food, lots of attention and I really understood how much mom was loved, was appreciated and respected for her work ethic and her administrative skills.
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When the Rotary club admitted women members to Her club - she was furious. That was not the way her club should be run. Nevertheless, when the first female, Pauline Hill, was accepted into the club she met with mom in the office - she knew mom didn’t like change. She said to our mother, “Well, I expect the same treatment as all of the male members. Are you going to give me a hug, too?” That melted mom’s heart and she thought that maybe things would be OK there.
As office administrator she taught me to use the Addressograph machine. I loved the responsiblty. I was always inspired and awed by the way she would manage the office. i would plug away in the back room and she would be handling her members, The Executive Secretaries came and went, but she remained in charge, staying part time for year in order to be able to take the summer off and stay at her beloved cottage. I fulfilled my promise to her: that we would keep her at home as long as we could. 1960 they bought the land, the cottage built in 1962.
She could manage 500 Rotary members. I’d be in the back room using this really cool machine and I could hear mom greeting all of her members. On Fridays it was the big luncheon: she would have to ensure that the Royal York Hotel staff had lunch, chairs, the podium, members would pop in and ask her to do something extra. Mr. Seagrum gave her liquid Xmas gifts, Mr. Christie’s cookies were wonderful, and chocolates would arrive from her well-placed members. She knew every member’s name in the club. She knew every bell hop and serving staff by name, having to organize these regular Friday lunch meetings and they would bring her treats leftover from luncheons. She treated them with such dignity and respect, and received this attitude back from them in return.
In the November 2003 Rotary Voice a column by John Spragg (a past-president) said,
“I will also miss Joan Jilks, honorary member and former secretary in our office. Secretary” What am I saying? – she ran the place. One of the nice things about Christmas is that I will hear from some old friends, Joan and Ray among them.”
An April 2005 Voice report by Alan Martin said,
“That leads me to report that my wife, Dorothy, recently received a telephone call from Honourary member Joan Jilks who lives with her husband Ray in the delightful town of Bala. All of our member who joined the club before 1991 will fondly remember Joan as the friendly and knowledgeable Office Administrator for the previous 29 years.”
He goes on to talk about Alan McKanna, Executive Director from 1984 – 1990, similarly suffering from health problems. “During the year I was president of the club (1998 – 1989) I had the privilege of working with both Alan and Joan and depended upon their knowledge and wisdom throughout the year. In fact they both had to work so hard that they found it necessary to retire shortly afterwards.”
Her Rotary members would walk in before meeting, and she would be buried in paperwork, she’d have to meet them around the counter for the obligatory hug from her members, the more senior members would deliver gob=smacker kisses, which they thought their right, and which she adored. She would introduce me to them, I always felt she was so very proud of me, no matter what I’d done wrong the week before. I was so proud of her when, at age 55 or so, she learned how to use a computer at work and would then have to set-up the Rotary Voice to make it printer-ready. She was in her glory at “The Royal York”. It will always by “Mom’s Hotel” to all of us.
Pauline presented mom with her Honorary membership a few years ago. I wish I had been able to be there with her for that celebration and ceremony. She was thrilled. back to top
I can remember phoning mom one Thursday before Xmas. Brian and I were on our 4th “date”, he was helping me host my staff party, our 3rd date had been the night before when he helped me clean house in preparation for the party. I told her I had met this wonderful man – she put up with a bunch of also-rans when I was between husbands, and her generosity of spirit – she said bring him up with you! That started a love affair between Mom and Brian that was a sight to behold. He was a kindred spirit for her. He, too, is a control freak and “perfect in every way”. “I am 16 going on 17” perfect in every way. That was their standing joke!
In fact, when mom found her first lump in 2002, it was Brian she told. He was under strict instructions not to tell me, because she was determined to throw us a great wedding ceremony and would deal with this lump later. She had her surgery that fall; they decided to do another surgery the next spring, which was when dad’s tumour attacked him. From then on we took turns visiting Toronto hospitals to help them. I couldn’t make it one day, Caitlin took the job of Grandma-sitting, then I showed up, Caitlin went back to Waterloo, Brian, took a turn, as did Robin- great photo of you with mom in the hotel room, and Jesse visited, since he was attending York University that year visited, as well. It was a great team effort. I am very proud of our family.
Every person I phoned, i.e. Dr. Fallis’ office, her first surgeon, the health care workers, Red Cross support workers, dentist, and all of her dear friends, have told me how much they loved my mom and how much she did for others and how much she will be missed. That has meant a lot to me, this past month was so bad for us. I am comforted by those words. She found it so very difficult to stop giving and just to receive. She was afraid and had trouble letting people just do for her. But we managed. She had a good passing, up until the final hours.
For so very long mom would quote Nanny; ‘Nanny would have said”, Nanny always, and now, mom’s spirit will never die, as we will be able to take all of these great remembrances, her deeds and her high expectations and faith in us, and know that while she has a new home, and a new life, she will always be in our hearts and we will always have to remember to do it “Joan’s” way. Bless all my family for all their love and support. Blessings to my brother, who has been a rock, my husband who has been a rock and a pillow.
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