On the morning of February 15, 2023, Nicole (Nicky) O’Toole died. She was 79.
Nicky was born on June 27, 1943 in Ottawa, where she lived until 2007 when she moved to Muskoka. She was predeceased by her parents, Liane (Lil) Belleau and Alphonse (Bud) Sigouin; her former spouse Patrick (Paddy) O’Toole; and her lifelong best friend, Ann Keeley. Nicky leaves behind her three sons and their families: Patrick, and his wife Josée; Sean, his wife Heather, and their daughters, Emma and Molly; and Christopher, his wife Meagan, and their sons Seamus, Liam and Conor. She also leaves behind her beloved sister Lou, and her brother André.
Nicky lived a modest, humble life. She didn’t have an ounce of pretence or guile in her very small frame. She was good-natured and honest, sweet and funny, and take-me-as-I-am authentic. She was a wide-eyed innocent, unable to comprehend why anyone would be mean, sneaky or selfish. She never imposed her will on anyone, and she never judged. She was unfazed by materialism and accomplishments; instead, she valued relationships and life’s small pleasures. Her favourite moments were spent in Torrance at her son Pat’s cottage, sitting on the dock with family, enjoying a Muskoka sunset with a fuzzy navel in her hand as steak cooked on the barbecue. She loved reading books and People magazine, watching the Blue Jays on TV, and sitting on the front porch chatting with her neighbours, Carol and David, while having a smoke and a coffee. She was old-school and proud of it: she insisted on a landline, she wrote cheques, she gave her grandchildren a fifty-dollar bill for birthdays and Christmas, and she only recently (and reluctantly) discovered Netflix because she wanted to watch The Crown. Nicky spent the majority of her work-life in Ottawa at M&O Bus Lines and OC Transpo, working in the offices as a dispatcher. She enjoyed her work and made many good friends along the way.
Nicky’s real legacy is the series of values she passed on to her boys: Be nice. Be compassionate. Live and let live. Give people a break, ’cause life’s hard enough as it is. She taught those lessons by quiet example rather than lecture. She never gave a lecture in her life; instead, she led and showed the way with love and grace. And for that, she was respected, admired, and loved. Very well loved.
Nicky’s boys would like to thank Donna Kearney and the wonderful staff at Andy’s House in Port Carling; the lovely people at Granite Ridge Retirement Residence in Gravenhurst; and the hardworking medical team at South Muskoka Hospital in Bracebridge. If you are so inclined, please consider donating to Andy’s House in Nicky’s name.
Nicky’s life will be honoured and celebrated in a small family gathering in Ottawa in the spring, and her ashes will be spread in two bodies of water, as per her wishes: the Ottawa River, near her childhood home in Britannia; and Lake Muskoka, near her son Pat’s cottage in Torrance. We’ll see you in our dreams, Mom. Love you.