(July 3, 1935 – April 3, 2021)
Peacefully, age 85, with her family at her side and by Zoom from Germany and Ontario, at Inglewood Care Centre in West Vancouver. Predeceased by husband, Jim Watt, and sisters, Terry Pickering and Marguerite Stafford and survived by daughters, Nancy (Martin Kuhna and son, Geoffrey) and Anne (Jay Symons) and sister, Maureen Clarke (Wayne).
Sheila was born in Eganville, Ontario on July 3rd,1935 to Katherine (Mullen) and Joe Harty.
She and her sisters, Marguerite, Terry and Maureen, endured some difficult years after the onset of WW2, when their mother was forced to leave them in the care of the Grey Sisters at the convent in Pembroke for two years (and youngest, Maureen with her grandparents in Killaloe) as she searched for work and a home for them in Toronto where they were eventually re-united.
After these difficult years, Sheila studied nursing at St. Joes in Parkdale, Toronto and started her career in Milton where she met her husband, Jim, both working in public health. There they had two daughters and moved to Pembroke in the early 60s.
She was a devoted mother, and when her children were both in school, she started working again at the Pembroke Civic Hospital. She juggled her career and motherhood, and never one to do anything in half measures, or to take no for an answer, enlisted Jim in the women’s liberation movement.
An opportunity to teach at the Lorrain School of Nursing (later to merge with Algonquin College) arose and she obtained her BA in nursing at summer school at Western University, and began a teaching career. She would later obtain her Masters in Education from the University of Toronto. She was a devoted and well respected educator and nurtured her students to a high standard but remained always a kind and approachable mentor.
Her master’s thesis was based on the importance of the synergy of the right and left sides of the brain, and she believed strongly that excellence would be born of striving for balance. She lamented that our traditional education systems seemed to negate the value of our right hemisphere.
She was deeply spiritual, meditated daily and her world view was formed by an insatiable exploration of different religions and schools of thought. She believed that we are all connected, and the basis was our shared energy. She melded her love of healing and interest in energy into the study of different therapeutic modalities in the treatment of physical and psychological distress and most especially Therapeutic Touch, taking and facilitating many workshops, especially after her retirement. She was a gifted healer and left many fortunate recipients of her kindness with less pain, sadness, anxiety and insomnia. One recipient of her attention commented “She was a stranger to me before I met her, but that one hour she spent with me was life changing”.
Sheila loved to laugh. With her head back and her hands on her stomach. And there was much of this in our household growing up. It’s a good thing her husband had a wicked sense of humour because in actuality he was a little slow to embrace women’s rights. She used to love “Get Smart” and would run into the kitchen laughing, to prepare our dinner during the commercials.
After his birth in 2000, she became Oma to her grandson, Geoffrey, who was the absolute love of her life and she devoted much of her time to him – developing a most special bond as he spent summers with his grandparents at the cottage on Allumette Island.
In her seventies, as the universe would have it, her brilliant inquisitive brain, that she not for a moment took for granted, began the slow and relentless deterioration at the hands of Alzheimer’s Disease. She called upon the viking in her and fought for her independence, until she at last surrendered to the exceptional care and kindness of staff of the care centre. She lost her ability to speak (though 2 days before she lost consciousness, after months of no speech, she said “I love you”), and her ability to walk, but still she made daily rounds until the week of her death, in her wheelchair, to hold the hands of her bed bound neighbours.
We will love you forever Sheila. And we will benefit from your energy, which will be with us always.
If wished, in lieu of flowers, donations to the Therapeutic Touch Network of Ontario or the Alzheimer’s Society or to a charity of your choice.
The family will wait until a time we can all gather
to celebrate Sheila’s life.