“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it”
From Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Our beautiful, strong, adventurous, funny, trailblazing mother has left us to dance again with our father. She died peacefully, surrounded by her family at The Pines Long Term Care Home in Bracebridge.
Frances Zephy Hammond (Corrigan) was born in Wiarton, Ontario, July 4, 1929, the middle child of “Cork” Corrigan and Alice Swinton. A tomboy, sports fan and bookworm, “Frank” as she was known throughout her youth and by all her nephews and nieces, moved at an early age with her family to Manitoulin Island, where she worked at her father’s bakery, graduated high school and began her teaching career, even before attending Normal School (Teachers’ College) in North Bay, then venturing south to Muskoka in 1951 to pursue her profession.
There, she fell in love with the taxi driver who met her at the train and together they built several family businesses, while she taught full time at six Muskoka schools, raised four children, and took her family on wonderful adventures of fun and learning from Dinosaur Park in Utterson to the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena! Her home was always chock-full – of people, photos, stuff, and love. Where everyone gathered, or were welcomed, if they needed a place to eat, stay or someone to provide guidance.
A beloved, and often unorthodox, primary school teacher and lifelong learner, she became a trailblazer in the field of special education, and a vocal advocate for improved conditions for children with special needs.
She was renowned for her poetry, with a composition for every occasion; and equally for her laughter and ability to make almost anything fun. To our mother, everything was an event or an occasion, and she approached them all with a joie de vivre that few could match. For her family she was the biggest cheerleader, reminding us in her own unique way that we could do and be anything, and supporting our attempts wholeheartedly no matter the outcome.
She was a constant source of adventure for her grandchildren, surrounding them with love, laughter and butter tarts. She threw the best parties, the biggest Christmases, and adored Halloween when she could spoil her grandkids with homemade fudge. She cherished time and travels with all of them and was the loudest voice at any hockey or baseball game. They have credited her with teaching them empathy and eloquence and described her simply as “the wind at their back.”
Swimming in Lake Muskoka was one of her favourite pastimes. She would be the first in the lake in the spring, and last out in the fall, usually with a grandchild in tow. She lived for her family, but led a life of service to her community, as a member of the Kinette Club of Bracebridge, The Bracebridge United Church Women, a founding member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association of Muskoka, a member of the Eastern Star and even the Red Hat Society. She sat on the Northern Shores District Health Council, among many other committees, led a community safety campaign, was a regular newspaper columnist, managed the Bracebridge Blades Precision Skating team and provided the TV colour commentary for the local Santa Claus Parade.
Her artistic pursuits were many but, at all times, she had at least two creative projects on the go. Following in her family tradition, she was known for her intricate and imaginative birthday cake designs.
After her retirement from teaching she took her love of exploration to the next level in the family travel business, guiding groups around the world, and bringing her teacher’s heart and creative spirit on every journey. She had regular chats with Honest Ed Mirvish; wore a bedsheet to haunt an already haunted Welsh castle; drank screech in Newfoundland; kissed the Blarney Stone; broke her ankle climbing Ayers Rock/Uluru and, after a quick return trip with the Australian Flying Doctor service, completed her tour directing duties in a walking cast.
She used impeccable grammar; always did well (never good). Likewise, she knew all her swears. She was a feminist before it was popular and a progressive thinker who was unafraid to promote and provoke matters of social justice and equality.
In 2005, at the age of 75, her life, and ours, changed when she suffered a brain aneurism and was dubbed the “miracle patient” beating the odds to survive then learning to breath, talk, walk and feed herself again. While she would never fully recover, our “new Mom” still brought us much laughter, adventure or even misadventure - cleverly attempting escape (and sometimes succeeding) from both seniors’ facilities where she lived.
Her last ten years were spent in the care of the wonderful staff at the Pines Long Term Care Home where she was the much loved “Frannie”, reputed for correcting grammar, making inappropriate jokes, and showing enthusiasm for anything to do with arts and crafts.
Predeceased by the love of her life, Orvil, her great-grandson Miles, her sister Joan, and best friend and sister-in-law Monica. She leaves her brother Jim Corrigan, her children Jim (Cheryl), Brad (Louise), Greg (Suzie) and Beverley (Gord Scott); her grandchildren Sean (Charlene), Gavin (Sarah), Kent (Kate), Greer, Corri (Mia Macdonald), John (Chantal), Ian, Alec and Henry (Allison), and the Scott family, Chris (Emily Swift), Cam (Ally Palmer) and Fiona (Tyler Kerr); and her great- grandchildren Adyline, Bennett, Eli, Finn, Zephy, Winston, Evelyn, Camille, Cadence, and Norah; brothers in-law Gary Hammond (Maurene) and Paul Hammond (Shirley), sister-in-law Pennie and many dear nephews and nieces. Fran would want to make special mention of her friend, caregiver and honorary daughter, Lorna Speicher.
A celebration of our mother’s life will be held at 12 PM, at Bracebridge United Church on Saturday, November 12 with reception to follow. Donations in her memory may be made to the Miles Philip Hammond Endowment at Soldiers Memorial Hospital, Manna Food Bank or The Pines Support Committee and can be made by contacting Reynolds Funeral Home. Personal condolences and memories may be shared through www.reynoldsfuneral.com