MARITA ANNETTE ADAMS (nee PESCHEL) Her radiant smile faded and striking blue eyes closed forever, peacefully at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto on July 4, 2014 surrounded by loved ones. She is gone far too soon at age 57 but finding relief from a devastating neurodegenerative disorder which relentlessly stole her abilities to move, write, speak, eat and drink, causing full-body muscle spasms in the final weeks. Devoted to her family and service to others, Marita retired in mid-2013 from a career as an elementary school principal, special education consultant and kindergarten teacher who started as a speechwriter and aide to MPPs, Cabinet Ministers and a Premier. She saw humour and irony in political and government work preparing her to be a role model for children. Empathy, integrity and loyalty were her hallmarks and legacy. Born in Toronto of immigrant parents from Germany, raised in and near Arnprior making her an Ottawa Valley girl. She graduated from Victoria College, University of Toronto after a study year in Aix-en-Provence, France. She worked at a summer job as a multilingual tour guide at the Ontario Legislature and rose through the ranks to be Executive Assistant to Culture and Recreation Minister Reuben Baetz under Premier William G. Davis. At Queen's Park she met the man who became her lover, soul mate, husband and father of their two outstanding children. Deciding to devote her work life, intelligence and compassion to young children, she returned to school and graduated from the Institute for Child Studies at the University of Toronto. As a school administrator, she worked at John Ross Robertson, Winchester, Gledhill, Hollywood, Sunny View and Halbert public schools and was seconded to the Roots of Empathy charity as national director of programs. She focused on what was best for each child with or without the support of the system. In 2011-2012, she took a self-funded sabbatical in an earthly paradise known as Ajijic on Lake Chapala, Mexico, enjoying a second home anticipating a long retirement. That period was her last time of good health. In October 2012 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in January 2013 with severe compressions of the spinal cord in her neck, requiring major surgery. Then came the puzzling neurologic symptoms. Marita died without a diagnosis; an aggressive variant of ALS or other motor neuron disease is suspected. Neuroscience was able to do little for Marita, so it is in her character to help neuroscience and other patients by donating her brain, spinal cord and fluid to brain banks; one in Toronto and the other a project of the US National Institutes of Health. Her DNA will be analyzed and available for long-term research. Thanks to Sunnybrook Pathology, Cure4Rare genetics project in Ottawa, genetics unit at Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto and Faculty of Medicine at University of California at Los Angeles for making this possible. Thanks also for the support and services from family doctor Shawna Perlin, Sunnybrook ALS program, ALS Society, palliative doctors of Temmy Latner Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital, Parkinson Society Canada, Toronto Central CCAC, therapists, nurses and personal support workers of SRT and VHA, Shoppers Home Health Care and the 18 neurologists at Sunnybrook, St. Michael's and McMaster hospitals and in Mexico who tried to find what was wrong. Muchas gracias to her doctors, nurse and therapists in Mexico, where she enjoyed last fall and winter. Marita wished to be cremated after a complete autopsy. Her ashes will be placed in a family plot at Mount Pleasant Cemetery and sprinkled on Lake Chapala. A commemorative service to celebrate her life will be held on her birthday, Monday, July 28th at Grace Church on the Hill, 300 Lonsdale Road, Toronto at 4:00 p.m. A reception will follow at the church. A celebration will take place in Ajijic later. Marita is survived by her devoted husband and advocate of almost 30 years, (Norman) John Adams; children Michelle and John; and step-children Cheryl and Ryan (Marisa and grandson, Theo). In lieu of flowers, donations may be in made to Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, a registered charity at www.raredisorders.ca
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Published in the Toronto Star from July 8 to July 12, 2014