DOREEN (JARVIS) BIRLEY

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DOREEN BIRLEY (nee JARVIS) 1927 - 2013 Beloved mother of Andrew MACPhee (Karen Colin), Deborah Tennant (David Tennant) and Martin MacPhee (Lisa MacPhee) and much loved Nana/Grandma to Catherine and James Tennant, and Richard, Adam, Sarah and Sean MacPhee. Beloved sister of Eileen Facchino and Auntie to David and Ian Downes and Sally Osborne, Melanie Grimsdale and Mark Facchino, Jane Donald and Robert and Andrew Jarvis in England and Christopher Mawdsley in Canada. After a valiant struggle, Doreen passed away on September 19, 2013 at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. The third of five children of Emmanuel Jarvis and Violet Clements, she was predeceased by her sister Maggie and brothers Dennis and Eddie. Doreen was born and raised in England, graduating from Queen Mary's High School, Walsall, where she excelled in swimming and field hockey. Her father died when she was a pre-teen, leaving her mother to run the family business. Doreen learned the value of hard work and perseverance at an early age and drew on these life lessons again and again. She was smart, vivacious, funny and tenacious and she loved to sing and dance. She was studying biology at college when WWII broke out, ending the course. During the war, friends arranged for her to go to a dance with RAF pilot Colin MacPhee and they married after the war. He attended Oxford University and Doreen worked as a bank teller until she "started to show" her pregnancy with Andrew. In 1956, they immigrated to Canada; landing by boat in Montreal in November after a rough Atlantic crossing, the bitter winter weather was a shock. Deborah was born soon after and Martin followed, and in 1967 the family moved to Toronto. After being at home for many years, Doreen worked as a book keeper and secretary, primarily in the Scarborough Public School system where she made many friends. She was very active in the Girl Guide movement, became Area Commissioner and was invited to represent Canada at International Guiding meetings. In the 1980's, Doreen and Colin divorced. In 1991, she wed Hugh Birley, a widower and longtime friend. Hugh adored Doreen, as she did him, and was a true blessing in her life. On retirement, they moved to Lagoon City, Lake Simcoe, to live by the water. Sadly, after seven years, Hugh passed away. Once again on her own, Doreen continued her life in Lagoon City, including acting and singing in, co-writing and directing the "Lagoon City Follies" - a community comedy and musical review. She also greatly enjoyed singing in the Sweet Adelines, performing in both Canada and the US. In her 70's, macular degeneration struck and left her legally blind. Doreen moved to Swan Lake, Markham, closer to family, and built a new community of friends. It is in no small part due to those friends, and her many friendships over a lifetime, that Doreen was able until very recently to remain in her own home and live as she wanted to there. In 2013, she moved to AMICA Swan Lake and lived there for a few months prior to her death. Doreen's family are extremely grateful to all of those who supported her and who, along with the help of many fine Doctors and professionals at St. Michael's Hospital (with special thanks to Dr. Lisa Hicks), Markham-Stouffville Hospital and AMICA Swan Lake, made Doreen's wishes possible. Doreen loved her friends and family fiercely, was a high energy "DO-er" and showed all who knew her how to embrace life with grit, determination and humour. She always held herself to a high standard, and by her example encouraged those around her to do the same. We miss her a great deal. Cremation has taken place. A service celebrating her life will take place at the DIXON-GARLAND FUNERAL HOME, 166 Main St. N., (Markham Rd.) Markham on Saturday, October 19th; visitation noon-1 p.m., service at 1 p.m., reception to follow. If desired, memorial donations can be made to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, CNIB or Heart & Stroke Foundation in Doreen's name.

Published in the Toronto Star on Sept. 28, 2013
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