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Friday December 28, 2012

Sandra Malone McKinnon

Mother, wife, aunt, gardener, true Brit. Born Feb. 22, 1936, in Oxford, England, died June 4, 2012, in Huron County near Hensall, Ont., of cancer, aged 76.

I met Sandra Malone in the mid-1950s when I was 5. Her father was with British Motors, and my father was a business colleague who imported that company's cars into Canada.

When Sandra was 17, they shipped her off to stay with my parents in Oakville, Ont., mostly to separate her from an unsuitable boyfriend. She quickly met an even more unsuitable boyfriend - my uncle Eddy. Her parents tried sending her to other friends in San Francisco, but from reading Eddy's letters to Sandra there, her parents didn't stand a chance.

She was tall, blond, a true English beauty, and as a kid her story was riveting to me. Born in England, she was raised in India under British rule and at boarding school in the Scottish highlands. Her grandfather was a sea captain who died when his parrot bit him, and her only sibling, her sister Pat, died when attacked by a cobra in India.

I spent a lot of time with Sandra. She taught me how to smoke cigarettes in the 1950s and I taught her how to smoke marijuana in the 1960s. She introduced me to classical music; I introduced her to the Beatles.

When I met my husband, an eccentric Englishman, our second date was with Sandra and Eddy because if they didn't approve there wasn't going to be a third date.

When Adrian and I moved from Toronto to Huron County, Sandra and Eddy visited most weekends and took over the house next door when they retired 15 years ago. We had lots of adventures as couples.

Sandra had a 30-year career with Page + Steel architects in Toronto and her friends there were important to her.

She was the epitome of elegance and a tremendous role model. When I was young, Eddy took me aside and said I would do well to model myself after Sandra. After two weeks I gave up - it was too much work to be as perfect as she was.

Sandra and Eddy were exceptional partners, two strong individuals who blended for a life-long union that was an inspiration to everyone. Sandra nursed Ed until he succumbed to cancer, and it was mere weeks before she was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

She was a superb tennis player, but her lifelong passion was gardening. Her garden at their Forest Hill home was stunning, and when they moved to Huron County she transformed a patch of cornfield into an exquisite English garden. You could usually find her in the garden wearing wellies and pearls.

Sandra was devoted to Eddy and their two sons, Jamie and Chan, whom she spoiled beyond reason. She was immensely proud of them and adored her two grandchildren, Darcy and Lyla.

Sandra was a true Brit. Everything stopped for the Queen, Wimbledon and Coronation Street.

She was often compared to Princess Grace, and in another life should have been a princess. Fortunately for this family, she was our princess.

Cass Bayley is Sandra's niece and friend.

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