It is with great sadness that family and friends announce the death of Jacqueline (Jackie) Park - entertainer, broadcaster, teacher, raconteur and writer. For almost 93 years, she was one of those true larger than life people who, despite her diminutive stature, was the dominant personality in so many settings. Jackie was born Jacqueline Rosen in Winnipeg in 1925. From childhood, she was in love with music and musical theatre. Age five, she enrolled in singing and dancing lessons and as a teenager, to sharpen her skills and earn pocket money, she performed on weekends in local pubs and beer halls. Always precocious, Jackie enrolled, age fourteen, in the University of Manitoba to study economics. During WW2, she partnered with future TV host and producer Monty Hall to sing songs from MGM movies and entertain whom she liked to refer to as the 'beautiful young men' at the servicemen's centre in Winnipeg.
Still in her teens, Jackie set off to work with the National Film Board in Ottawa, then led by the legendary John Grierson and at that time perhaps the most brilliant and innovative producer of documentaries in the world. She then moved to Toronto and enrolled in the University of Toronto to pursue a Master's Degree in economic history, studying with - among others - the famous and seminal economic historian, Harold Innis. In Toronto, Jackie married lawyer Gersten Rosenfeld, with whom she had two daughters, Ellen and Sara. Meanwhile, Jackie served as a panellist on CBC radio's 'Court of Opinion' with such luminaries as Pierre Berton and Gordon Sinclair.
She followed this up as a writer of documentaries as soon as televisions arrived in Canada. In 1960, when she was working for the CBC, she moved to New York to script and develop a series of documentaries, and it was there that she met Ben Park, a journalist working at NBC, whom she subsequently married.
In New York, Jackie reinvented herself yet again, teaching at New York University and becoming the founding Chairman of the Dramatic Writing Program and, eventually, Professor Emeritus, at NYU's prestigious and unique Tisch School of the Arts.
But this was not enough. Ben and Jackie loved Italy, its food, its culture, and its way of life, and in her seventies, Jackie decided to become a novelist and to write about Renaissance Italy. The result was The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi, an international best-seller, which was translated into many languages, and led to many promotional and research trips abroad. She followed it up with The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi, and now with the soon-to-be released completion of the Grazia trilogy, provisionally titled Son of Two Fathers.
In 1988, Jackie and Ben began splitting their time between New York and Toronto starting with an apartment on Queens Quay West. After Ben died in 1995, Toronto gradually became Jackie's home. For the last 4 years she lived at Hazelton Place Retirement Home where she was beautifully looked after by wonderful care-givers and close friends.
In addition to her daughters, Jackie is survived by grandchildren, Molly, Douglas, Karl, and Maya; great-grandchildren, Walter and Dylan; and a vast circle of longtime friends and associates. With her energy, wit and high-spirited intelligence, Jackie deeply touched everyone who knew her.
She was buried on January 30, 2018 amidst a howling winter storm in Winnipeg - a movie-like setting she might have written. Jackie will be sadly missed.
Published in The Globe and Mail on Feb. 3, 2018.