August 13, 1920 - February 28, 2017
Christine, wife of Claude Bissell (1916-2000), passed away at Briton House, Toronto, in her ninety-seventh year. Loving and loved mother of Deirdre Macdonald (Rob); beloved grandmother of Alexander (Lauren Goodman), Christina, and Finlay (Kirstin Borgerson). Christine, born to Duncanina and William Gray of Bothwell, Scotland, was the second eldest of four children: William (Zabel; Ruth); Molly Boyanoski (Frank); and Morag Wood (Ted). Christine is survived by her cherished sister Morag, and by her Gray and Bissell nieces and nephews and their families, much loved by their Aunt Christine.
Christine met Claude in wartime London-where she was working for the Ministry of Supply-when Claude was on leave from his regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada. They were married in Bothwell Parish Church on September 12, 1945, shortly before Claude returned to Canada. Christine followed soon after on the Lady Nelson in the company of other war brides, landing at Pier 21, Halifax. Christine and Claude's first home was the Dean's House, University College, University of Toronto (now named Bissell House) where Claude taught in the English Department at University College and began his career in university administration. Christine read widely with Claude, developed her lifelong interest in ceramics and design, and participated with vigor in university life.
In 1956, Christine and Claude moved to Ottawa, where Claude was the founding president of Carleton University. From 1958 to 1971, when Claude served as president of the University of Toronto, Christine created a vibrant social setting at the president's residence. There, academics, artists, writers, and business people came together for spirited conversation; many evenings resounded with song and dance into the early hours of the following day.
Christine and Claude's home in Sugar Loaf, Cape Breton, which they purchased in 1958, was to become the heart of their family. Each year on Christine's birthday, Claude wrote Christine a poem. It was in Cape Breton, from the depths of his dementia, that he wrote his last poem for Christine. The poem speaks of her delight in life, a delight 'which removes the questions/That distract and demoralize.'
Christine's exuberant pleasure in life, her rare sense of colour and design, which she felt originated in childhood summers on the Hebridean island of Tiree, and her infectious sense of humour, inspired and cheered her family and friends. Her voice and laughter continue to flow through our lives.
Thank you to the family and friends, whose visits buoyed up Christine, and to the caring staff at Briton House, especially to Dante Natividad and Charlene Connor. Christine's empathetic and caring companion, Maria Luisa Gimena, danced and laughed with her until the end. The friendship of Karoline Pollinger, Venetia Cowie, Sandy Davidson, and Gloria Torres brightened Christine's final years. Thank you, also, to the following doctors-Laura Catz-Biro, Mary Doherty, Diana Heath, Leonard Johnson, and Patricia McEwan-for their wisdom, compassion, and good humour.
A private service and cremation have taken place. A celebration of Christine's life will be held at Bissell House, University College, University of Toronto, at a later date. Condolences may be sent to www.morleybedford.ca, or c/o Morley Bedford, 159 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto, Ontario, M4R 1A8.
And I will luve thee still, my dear Till a' the seas gang dry.
Saturday March 4, 2017
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