Dielwen E. Bracken
1935 - 2020
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Teacher, mentor, advocate, adventurist, visionary. Fondly called ‘Di’ or ‘Mamgu’, her indomitable spirit was a force to be reckoned with. Despite her diminutive stature, exacerbated over recent years by osteoporosis and scoliosis, the effects of which she acknowledged with her customary grace and humour, my mother exuded an enormous presence that appeared unquenchable. Suddenly and peacefully while at home in Hamilton Ontario on May 29th, the light went out—leaving all who knew her stunned and in darkness. Born March 15th, 1935 in the village of Trehafod, Wales, Dielwen Elizabeth Sault proudly called herself a coalminer’s daughter and never forgot her humble beginnings. Despite living in her adopted homeland of Canada for over half her life, Di ensured her family understood and respected her ‘working class’ roots and their Welsh heritage. It was her personal mission to lead her beloved grandchildren, Tywen and Brynne, on several occasions and as recently as last year, back to the Rhondda valley to perceive where and how she spent her formative years. Her childhood provided the cornerstone to anchor her life in selfless generosity and tireless advocacy for those less fortunate. Ultimately, loss, in a variety of guises, shaped her life’s journey and cemented her unwavering desire to help others. Blessed with keen intellect and natural curiosity, the loss of her mother while still a teen propelled her into a career where she could help others. At that time, an aspiring young woman in a small village in Wales had very few career options. Medicine, for which she would have been a natural fit, was never an option, but fortunately for a generation of young impressionable minds, teaching was. An adventurist at heart, she seized the opportunity to move halfway around the world to take up her first post in Hong Kong. Hong Kong provided a bustling, cosmopolitan community full of opportunity which my mother, despite her unfamiliarity, tackled head-on. Years and two children later, with the first seeds of political unrest beginning to show, my mother, with typical aplomb and resiliency, agreed to immigrate to Canada with my father, Peter Bracken. Our family eventually settled in Oakville Ontario and, once satisfied that both my brother and I were safely ensconced in school, she devoted her considerable time and energy to teaching. Known for her insistence on the “Queen’s English” and uncompromising high standards, she was simultaneously the teacher most feared and loved. Her thirty-five-year teaching career forged enduring friendships with teaching colleagues, many of whom she continued to interact with weekly if not daily right up until her death. She mentored hundreds of students and young teachers and was always ‘tickled pink’ when she received messages from former students on social media attesting to her enduring importance to them. A life-threatening health crisis occurred when I was a young teen, which resulted in the loss of her colon and fundamentally altered her life’s course. She quickly found kinship with the local Ostomy society and over the years built impressive expertise, which she volunteered tirelessly as always, to anyone, anytime. A natural leader, she devoted innumerable hours to local, Canadian, and International groups to champion lifesaving ostomy surgery and access to ostomy supplies. Whether attending a meeting in South America as the first female president of the International Ostomy Association or more recently, negotiating with Iranian officials to secure acceptance of a desperately needed Ostomy supply shipment, her energy and commitment to help others never faltered. Whatever the situation demanded, regardless of her previous experience, Di could adapt and handle it. This was never more evident than honing her impressive and self-learned IT skills to produce the Ostomy newsletter digitally. A devoted teacher, my mother sacrificed her career and retired at fifty-eight in order to look after my children. She wanted to nurture the same respect for education, social justice and equity in them, the same way she had done for my brother Kerig and I. She told me on many occasions that she wanted to have a significant influence on her grandchildren’s lives and was not content to merely ‘babysit’ on the sidelines. She became their Mamgu (Welsh for grandmother) and cultivated a loving, nurturing environment affording both challenges and security. She helped raise Tywen and Brynne as she had with her own children. “Reach for the stars”, ‘’Respect is earned, not given” her mantra in my youth, once again resounded in our home. Her advice and opinion were always forthcoming, whether or not you wanted to hear it. It was during this time that my brother’s life began to unravel. Despite all of her efforts and devotion, Kerig passed away in September 2016. His loss deeply affected my mother, yet outwardly she remained her buoyant self, with renewed resolve and commitment to family. Family has always been her priority and although her biological family is very small, her extended family is legion and spread around the globe. These last four years, my spouse Jim and I have had the immense privilege of living with Di in our home in Hamilton. Our relationship flourished and she became my muse in addition to her already formidable role as anchor. She became Mamgu to Jim’s children, Brendan and Alley, and an ever-growing circle of friends. She leaves her only sibling Teifion (Gayle), my family, and her many close friends in darkness struggling to illuminate our lives from her lasting spark. If you would like to make a donation in her memory please consider some of these; Friends of Ostomates Worldwide (Canada), Workers Action Center, CAMH Foundation, and the Ontario SPCA, and Humane Society. A virtual memorial will be held in the future. Di loved dogs, especially labs, although the recent addition of Lola the Aussie doodle did meet with her approval; licorice allsorts, fish and chips, tennis, and Boney M. She did not “suffer fools gladly” and detested bigotry, racism and social injustice. She was a world traveller.

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Published in The Hamilton Spectator on Jun. 4, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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11 entries
June 20, 2020
From starting a local chapter of Ostomy Canada (formerly UOAC) in the early nineteen eighties to being one of the principal leaders in the nineteen nineties creating an independent national association in Canada and then a few years later becoming its President. That was just the beginning, Di went on to become the President of the International Ostomy Association the only Canadian and proud Welshwoman to do so.

When Di moved to Toronto she became involved with the local Toronto Chapter and soon became its President. Di was a very hands-on person involving herself with the fundraising. Di participated in bingo sessions that involved many nights and weekends. Di did say she enjoyed meeting all the people at the bingo hall.

But before all of that Di worked for the British Government in Hong Kong as a teacher and then went on to Japan to open a school there. That school is still in existence today. I know because Di told me a few years ago she met a young teacher on a plane when she was returning from one of her many trips that this young lady was teaching at that very school. Travel was going to be a major part of Dis life it seemed.

I worked with Di on the Ostomy Canada Board of Directors and on the Board of Friends of Ostomates Worldwide (Canada). International affairs as far as the ostomy community were concerned was Dis forte. Di was President of Friends of Ostomates Worldwide (Canada) early on. Di was instrumental in developing strategies on getting supplies to the neediest countries.

Di always attended sorting and packing that we did over the years. As Di got older she took on the Role of International Liaison for Friends of Ostomates Worldwide (Canada). In that position, Di was instrumental in keeping in contact with the international ostomy community.

Di I will miss you greatly, as will the ostomy community.
Lorne Aronson
Lorne Aronson
June 8, 2020
Thank you for posting this long and very interesting bio of your mother. I only knew her for a short time through the Seniors Centre at the Y. We attended a class together and although she had physical limitations, she always tried. She was outgoing and friendly and we always spoke together for a few minutes after class. I was also fortunate to have visited with her just before last Christmas. Her friend Marg invited me to her apt. and Di came as well. I hadn't seen her for a while and so was happy to hear a little about her life and her up-coming trip to India. I was a little shocked about her travelling such a long distance because, although I am younger than she was, I have decided that I am no longer up for long-distance travelling any more. But you could see her grit and determination to continue to live an active and engaged life.
I was shocked to hear of her death and please accept my condolences.
Jeanne Mayo
June 7, 2020
In memory of Di's vision and dedication as President of the United Ostomy Association of Canada, the former national organization, which was an advocate for persons living with ostomies.
With sincere sympathy
ANN IVOL, President
June 7, 2020
At a national conference, Di approached me, a spouse of someone with an ostomy to get involved in sessions for spouses/partners. These sessions became an integral part of future conferences. With encouragement from Di a national committee was formed to support spouses and significant others. Thank you Di for your leadership and support to the families of persons with ostomies.
June 7, 2020
Keyna - Sorry about the loss of your mum! What a nice recap of her life you've given. One of the things I remember most about her was her amazing laugh, which would ring throughout the house (and, on more than one occasion, announce her arrival at one of the (not very) famous Hillview Yellow Bird parties.) I do hope that the memories you and your family created with her over the years provide some comfort during this difficult time.
Diana (Moore) Byron
June 7, 2020
Sweet memories.
It was great honour for our family to know about Di. She stayed for couple of hours with our family in April 2016 during her visit to Gurgaon (Delhi, India) when she came here with Dr Harikesh Buch.
She was full of life and caring for everyone around her. We always remember her as an inspiration. Her straightforward approach to life's challenges is great lesson for us. My children often talk about her.
Her demise is big loss to everyone who knew her. She worked tirelessly for welfare of needy people around the world.
We say with heavy heart and true prayer -
Om Shanti
June 4, 2020
A beautifull, funny, most precious lady whom I had the honour of knowing.

She will always be with us.
Stephen Payne
June 4, 2020
I never met Tywen's Mamgu, but I heard nice stories about her from Tywen .. and who I always sensed inspired him. Her story as told above is very touching and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your "virtual" eulogy.
Warren Rapoport
June 4, 2020
From our first meeting on your front door step, when I travelled solo from Melbourne, Australia to the time we were standing on top of Melbournes skyline, you were such an inspiration to all around you. Thankyou for the memories and for the lessons learned. You will be greatly missed.

Anne Hafner
June 4, 2020
What a wonderful, sweet lady. I met Di a few years ago and became her dog walker. I saw her almost every day and enjoyed our chats. She loved to talk about her grandchildren. Always thinking of others she would send me home with something out of her garden or a book for my wife to read. She will be greatly missed. My deepest condolences to her family.
Brian Sicard
June 4, 2020
With a heavy heart, I pray for the eternal repose of one who was a woman of distinguished humanity. I will miss our chats about travel and the world.
Lucy Biason
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