Fran Varey: Mom’s Life

Mom at 94

My Mom died on 26 August 2021. It fell to me to write the obituary, which, as a task, is at once both an honour and an impossibility. The reason for the former is obvious; the reason for the latter is that no words can capture and condense a person’s life.

Mom’s Life

Mom was born in Toronto and spent all her early life there. As a child, she was particularly close to her father, Ed Sproule, and it would appear it was from him she inherited her great love of walking. One of her earliest childhood memories was of him coming home each Friday, having been paid, and giving her some small coin so that she could go down to the shop and buy the fish and chips for dinner.

Summers were often spent at the farm in Meaford, owned by her formidable but kind Aunt Lottie. Up to her very last days, Mom had clear memories of that farm.

She was serving tables in a diner in the Beaches area of Toronto when she met the love of her life, Don Varey. Mom was quite diminutive, and Dad would lovingly chide her, saying, “They don’t make diamonds like house bricks.” How true.

She was adept at all the important things required of a mother, wife, friend and member of the community. She listened to you. She understood you even if she didn’t agree with you. She was forever there when you needed her, and you never had to ask. She was freely giving of her time. Although not self-effacing, she was humble and un-demanding. I honestly don’t believe I ever heard her say a bad word about anyone she knew personally.

If one had to cite her very worst fault, it was probably that she was terrible on a bicycle. Although she never learnt how to ride, I think she secretly pined for the ability. In late life, when her memory was failing, she had what can only be false memories of having mastered the art of cycling.

In the kitchen, she was a simple, home-town virtuoso. Somehow she instinctively knew the value of uncomplicated healthy eating before it became a fad, educated herself on that, and produced great food, legendary in the family and for everyone who was lucky enough to eat what she cooked. Ohh, the onion buns.

Her greatest love was certainly family and friends. Other people. She rarely wanted for herself, and then her needs were simple. To walk, to swim, to read, to knit and sew, to fill an old cottage pot with blueberries.

As time wore on, she – as we all shall – was able to do fewer of these things she loved, and indeed, she grew smaller. But she was not diminished by these losses. Rather, it was like her best qualities became more concentrated in her. She passed her last few years in a retirement community where she was universally loved and respected. She will be missed there. And everywhere else she passed.

Fran Varey, née Sproule, was 94 when she died. Ninety-four years of kindness, caring, concern, understanding and love. She was a small, but an outstandingly exceptional person.

They don’t make diamonds like house bricks.