In loving memory of our dear friend and colleague Rita Thompson
January 8, 1949 – March 5, 2016
Nothing was more important to Rita than her family, and helping others. A passionate volunteer, she spent many years working in support of the Canadian Cancer Society, the John Howard Society of Ottawa, and was one of the founders of the Healing and Cancer Foundation. This commitment to volunteerism was recently recognized when the Governor General presented her with the Caring Canadian Award (soon to be known as the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers). She was also a passionate lover of music, and often sang and competed with the Capital Chordettes and Voices in Harmony.
“In 2004, Rita attended the first ever weekend retreat outside of Halifax. At the end of that magical weekend, Rita approached me saying those fateful words “If there’s anything I can do to help your organization, let me know”. Three years later we had our second retreat in Ottawa, and Rita’s face came to mind. She played a supporting role, making sure the food was ready at breaks, and running other minor errands – always extremely humbly.
It’s only after I slowly got to know her over the next few years, did I realize what an incredibly talented and dynamic woman she was. Rita worked in business, and called herself a ‘reformed banker’. In 2007, we began the long road of becoming a Registered Charity. Being a physician (and a naïve one at that) I had no idea how much work this would entail. I’m sure Rita spent a couple of hundred hours – generating the application, reviewing our bylaws, and patiently educating our thick-skulled leader. For this I am truly eternally grateful.
Rita became a Board member, joining and guiding our quarterly meetings. Not only was she a stickler for detail but she was highly ethical. While I wanted to bend the rules at times to push projects forward, she demanded that everything be done according to the rules (and I was smart enough to give in to this very wise woman). She had pithy little sayings that will stick with me like “Democracy means that I get to have my say but I don’t necessarily get to have my way”. And we had lots of laughs – witty, self-deprecating humour was her forte.
I recall my last conversation with her with tears in my eyes. She was in this state of loving gratitude (she from a woman who knew she would die within weeks). She has always been so supportive of me saying things like “You can light up a whole room with your presence”. I feel towards Rita like I felt towards my Mom who died of a brain tumour. My Mom in her dying days told me to go back to work and keep doing my charitable work – and she was really proud of me. Rita’s love and my Mom’s love will be forever imprinted on my heart.
In that last conversation, I told Rita I wanted to step down from being the Chair of The Healing and Cancer Foundation, as I didn’t want the administrative responsibilities. She told me I couldn’t because I was the heart and soul of the organization. We bantered back and forth. It was a very loving conversation. She finally told me it was her last wish. And we had a huge laugh about how persuasive she could be.”
A Sestina for Rita
A “Reformed Banker” from Ottawa
Loving mother to Adam and Aidan, Rita
Thompson, soul mate to Ted, Grandma to Avi, shined
With a golden heart of generocity and service,
Singing with the voice of an Angel
She brought good cheer to the Capital Chordettes and Voices of Harmony
Presiding over the board of directors she brought harmony
To the John Howard Society of Ottawa
Her volunteer spirit now hovers like a n Angel,
Elegant, fiesty, fun, thoughtful, dedicated Rita
We are deeply grateful for your abundant service
All you have given continues to shine.
Even through hilarious self deprecating humor you shined
A humble wise and wonderful woman, you brought harmony
To all relationships in your tireless service
Creating networks of positive action throughout Ottawa
And beyond. We will miss you Rita
In our minds you have become an Angel
A warrior for the righteous cases of goodness Angel
Never ego driven, you shined
With intelligence, love, precision, and humor, Rita.
With your singing friends you burst into spontaneous harmonies
In Cafes and resteraunts all over Ottawa
To the betterment of all you were in Service.
You bravely flipped cancer into an opportunity for service
For the Healing and Cancer Foundation you became our Angel
After many years on the CCS board of Ottawa
You were for us at HCF a beacon that shined
Bringing all the details of incorporation and charitable status into harmony
You literally gave us our foundation, Rita.
With your stories you made us laugh at every meeting, Rita
Then you would strike like an arrow of insight to serve
Us in upholding the highest ethical principals in harmony
With social justice and the good of all, an Angel
Of the higher road you shine
Now beyond the confines of Ottawa.
Rita of Ottawa, and beyond
Now an Angel of Harmony
In vast service to others you shine!
Rita was a financial consultant with a private practice specializing in retirement and life planning.
Rita gained her extensive financial experience through 25 years working with one of Canada’s ‘big five’ banks. In the Toronto marketplace, she worked for 15 years managing increasingly larger branches before moving to Ottawa in 1993, where Rita assumed responsibilities with the same bank as a Retirement Specialist in charge of 15 branches in Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley.
In her spare time, throughout her career in Toronto and Ottawa, Rita has been a director and executive officer of numerous boards of various Not-for-Profit organizations with diverse interests, primarily serving as Treasurer or President. Most recently in Ottawa, some of these organizations include a women’s international singing organization, and the John Howard Society–Ottawa where, after serving as treasurer for 9 years, Rita has been President for the last 9 years. Rita is also an invited lay member of the Academic Family Health Team Community Advisory Committee of a large multi-site continuing care hospital.
In 2002, Rita reduced her consulting practice significantly, in order to devote most of her time and effort to philanthropic endeavours. Meeting Rob and Tim at a Retreat in May, 2003, Rita became an avid supporter and shared their vision. Involved since 2006 in the earliest planning stages of creating what developed into the Healing and Cancer Foundation (HCF) in 2009, Rita was a member of the advisory board from its inception. Rita is a founding Director of HCF, serving almost three years as its Secretary-Treasurer with an active role in its on-going administrative operations. Effective October 2011, Rita has assumed the role of Vice-Chair.