Saturday, March 31, 2012

Radical hospitality, practical solidarity, boundless love: Memorial for mum

Alice Mildred Heap (née Boomhour)

July 20, 1925 - March 24, 2012

  Antiphon  The work of Justice shall be peace,
           and the effect of Justice quietness and confidence forever.
  Verse       Keep ye Judgment and do Justice:
  Response  For my Salvation is near to come and my Justice to be revealed.

Wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother; Christian, pacifist, socialist, feminist, community activist and organizer extraordinaire. Died peacefully of complications following pneumonia after a brief hospitalization at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

Alice is survived by loving husband Don (Dan), her inseparable partner in faith and in social justice causes for more than 61 years. Also survived by sisters Margaret Boomhour, Muriel Holmes, Irene Lathe, Ruth Coburn, and brother Lawrence Boomhour. Sorely missed by daughters Margaret (Serge Lalonde), Eleanor (Terry Quance), Susan (Pascal Laforest) and sons Harold (Hilary Dickson), Danny (Carol Schwartz), Andrew (Elizabeth Rainsberry) and David (Stephanie Kelly), and by grandchildren Rachel, Miriam, Michaël, Amanda, Tia, Katie, Odile, Évelyne, Marie-Hélène, Rian, Hannah, Eric, Danni, Nicolás, Felipe, Thomas and Steven, and great- grandchildren Dylan and Grace. Predeceased by brothers Robert and Charles Boomhour and by grandson Jesse Cohen. Fondly remembered by countless others who were embraced by her radical hospitality, her practical solidarity and her boundless love over the years.

After high-school, Alice attended the United Church Training School in Toronto (affectionately known as the Angel Factory) and McGill University in Montreal, where she became close to, and eventually joined, an extended family of Marxist Anglicans, the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth (SCC). She led her fiancé Don in converting to the Anglican Church. She also took part in Student Christian Movement (SCM) student-in- industry summer work-camps, worked in factories and participated in organizing drives with now legendary Québec trade-unionist and feminist Madeleine Parent, among others. In 1948 Alice attended the founding meeting of the Canadian Peace Congress in Toronto. In 1950 she was banned from traveling to the United States, though she ignored the ban for unauthorized personal, religious and political visits there. She worked with the Church Peace Mission and Easter Peace Marches until the mid-1960s and on the White Poppy campaign for Peace until 2009.

While raising a large family and welcoming SCM work-camps, war resisters, civil rights activists, farm-workers and many others into a home where the door was never locked, Alice worked at different times for University College, for the Toronto Public Library (Yorkville Branch), for the Visiting Home-makers Association and for housing co-ops including the Kalmar Co-op and Alexandra Park Co-op, where she was a member of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union. While remaining in comradely dialogue with many friends in and out of the Labour Progressive (later Communist) Party, Alice joined the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and later the New Democratic Party, where she served many organizing functions in local riding associations as well as being elected to the Provincial Executive as a socialist caucus delegate. She was recognized with a Bishop's Award for Faithful Service in 2000 for her steadfast work at Holy Trinity Church in areas such as social housing, a support group for released offenders, and anti-poverty work (she continued at weekly People’s Presence until the year of her death).

Donations in Alice’s memory can be made to any of many causes dear to her heart, including but not limited to: the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, the Canadian Council for Refugees or the Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Many friends rallied around in support as age and infirmity set in. The family is grateful to three in particular - Marty Crowder, Abraham Blank and David Chong – who attended faithfully to Alice, in addition to the dedicated care she received at Kensington Gardens and from front-line workers elsewhere.

There are those who struggle for a day and they are good. 
There are those who struggle for a year and they are better.
 There are those who struggle many years, and they are better still. 
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.
(Bertolt Brecht) 

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful tribute, David. Your mother gave the world so much. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    The expression "radical hospitality" really resonates with me, both from the Haven Coalition (the NYC underground abortion network) and the war resisters. Sometimes giving someone a couch to sleep on and a meal to eat is an act of resistance.