1965 – 2014
Jennifer Margret Gardiner, a.k.a. Jen Unplugged, was born in Collingwood, Ontario on April 30, 1965 and died February 22, 2014 from colorectal cancer. The daughter of Henry and Christena, Jen grew up believing she was the secret lovechild of Liberace and Cher and had been born a fabulous gay man in another life. Upon graduating from York University, Jen worked at Astral Media and laughingly boasted that the iconic film, "Porky's", was produced during her tenure. Jen later worked in the investment business, most recently with Berkshire Hathaway's Business Wire. Her fondest moment at BW was getting Warren Buffett to don her rooster-feather hat. In 2010, Jen left to start up an on-line magazine - Calgary Unplugged. Unfortunately, just weeks before its launch, she received her diagnosis and Calgary Unplugged was put on hold. But, as Jen would say, cancer may have been the best thing that ever happened to her. Thus was born Jen Unplugged, a tireless warrior in the battle against the cursed disease and an inspiration for others facing the challenge. Jen's battle was chronicled in the documentary The Uplife Project: Jen Unplugged, through which she continues to inspire others and raise funds for cancer research. Jen exhibited grace, beauty, humour, courage, kindness, inclusiveness and an indomitable zest for life as she fought bravely and reached out to encourage others to live life large and love fiercely each day. Jen treasured every precious moment of life. In her words, her life has been a hell of a ride, filled with love, fun, and one singularly outrageous wardrobe. She loved travelling and discovering cultures, people and fab vintage wear across the globe. Jen was afraid of nothing, be it public speaking, dancing in drag, operating a social media empire, the ulcerative colitis she was diagnosed with in her late teens, or even her untimely death from a relentless disease. Predeceased by her dear father, Henry Gardiner, Jen adored and will be forever missed by her beloved brother, Doug (Mimi Jones), nephews Fergus and Quinn, her mother, Christena, her stepchildren, Laura Dunnigan (Jesse Willis) and Brian Dunnigan (Morgan Crockett) and most especially by her beloved husband, the Honourable Sean Dunnigan of The Provincial Court of Alberta. Jen also leaves behind a vast network of extended family, friends and fans. Though her gratitude was well-known, she'd like to publicly thank the kick-ass team of doctors, nurses, researchers and staff at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, with a special shout- out to Drs. Walley Temple, Michael Vickers and Nigel Brocton. Anyone who met Jen instantly fell in love with her and she, in turn, loved them back. If you knew or have been inspired by her, honour her spirit by supporting a member of the LGBT community, wearing an outrageous hat, living life to the fullest, and pursuing your wildest dreams. And come to her Celebration this Saturday, March 8, 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., No. 1 Legion, 116 - 7 Avenue S.E., Calgary. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Jen Unplugged Experience Fund, via the Alberta Cancer Foundation, benefitting clinical cancer trials at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
Farewell, sweet Jen.
You didn't just live life, you illuminated it.
Published in The Calgary Herald from Mar. 5 to Mar. 7, 2014