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Tuesday January 8, 2013

Jacqueline Adele Kolber

Dancer, breast-cancer survivor, dragon-boater, volunteer, wife, grandmother. Born Aug. 20, 1938, in Edmonton, died Aug. 1, 2012, in Toronto of a heart attack following knee surgery, aged 73

Jacquie always knew how to make an entrance. Perhaps it was because she was a professional dancer.

There is a photograph of her taken early in her career. There she stands: all legs and dazzling feathers. At 5 foot 10, she could kick to high heaven.

Sam Kolber, her husband of 43 years, describes Jacquie as "a beauty who danced like a butterfly, floating above the floor." She let him lead, and he was a goner.

In the early 1960s she was line captain with the precision team the Canadettes, who performed in CNE Grandstand shows with such headliners as Victor Borge and Lorne Greene.

Jacquie was the first child of Maurice and Josephine Couture. She could boast her Canadian ancestry dated to the coureurs de bois.

She and Sam were married in 1969. Nine months minus two days after the ceremony, son Daniel was born. Daughter Andrea followed in 1972 and Tamara in 1974.

Sam and Jacquie built their dream home in north Toronto. They divided their time between the city and their chalet in Collingwood, where the children learned to ski, and downhill race, a tradition now passed on to her grandchildren.

Jacquie's passions were golfing, painting, rowing and cooking. Family dinners were often served with candles and flowers on the table and music playing in the background. She was fearless in the kitchen, which meant there was the occasional misstep such as the one her family remembers as "hot yogurt soup."

In 1983, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her children were 9, 11 and 13. After surgery and radiation, she thought the worst was over, but nine years later the cancer came back.

But she never let the disease take control of her life. She became one of the original members of "Dragons Abreast" - the Toronto-based dragon boat team dedicated to raising awareness that "there is life after breast cancer."

It was hard to say no to Jacquie. It was an attribute that served her well as a volunteer for many causes. She donated years of her time to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the Mount Sinai Hospital Women's Auxiliary. In 1999, she was one of Ontario's first recipients of the Lieutenant Governor's Community Volunteer Award.

"Dragon's Abreast" has a tradition of throwing flowers onto Lake Ontario when a team member has passed. A few weeks after Jacquie's death, five boats filled with her family, friends and teammates left the dock at Sunnyside Paddling Club. No sooner had they settled on the water than a stunning blue heron appeared, preening on the breakwall. There it stood: all legs and dazzling feathers.

Jacquie always knew how to make an entrance.

Eleanor Nielsen and Mary Mather are friends of Jacquie.

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