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Thursday January 10, 2013

Janet Barbara Acton

Champion skier, entrepreneur, teacher, mother, dynamo. Born April 10, 1941, in Kirkland Lake, Ont., died Oct. 18, 2012, in Ottawa of lymphoma, aged 71

Without the persistence of a young Janet Acton, a skiing dynasty would not have happened in Kirkland Lake.

Jay became hooked on skiing when her sports-minded Aunt Ina introduced her to it. She persuaded her father, Fred, to get her some skis, and he bought himself a pair too. Who knew Jay would go on to be one of the best young skiers not just in Kirkland Lake, but in all of Canada?

Fred was instrumental in establishing the Kirkland Lake Ski Club and served as a director. By the time Jay was in her teens, she was one of the top skiers in Ontario at slalom, downhill and cross-country.

She was on the team that won the Canadian Junior Ski Championship, representing Northern Ontario. She even attended an Olympic training school in Quebec. The whole family ended up being fabulous skiers, and Jay's niece Brigitte skied for Canada in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.

Jay's brother Bill remembers her inspiring all of them with her "be the best you can be" attitude.

She brought the same enthusiasm to swimming, volleyball and basketball.

But Jay wasn't just interested in sports. She also excelled as a "fashionista," according to her sister Linda. "She was always able to pick up a trend and be the first of her friends to try a new style or look."

Linda recalls one time when their father went to pick up Jay from a hair appointment but couldn't find her. No wonder. Jay, a brunette, had gone blond.

Her nieces thought her ability to drive and put on nail polish at the same time was pretty cool. Jay's popcorn is a family legend, and so are many of her recipes.

Both of her sisters, Linda and Wendy, say Jay couldn't resist anything with polka dots. "If we saw a sweater with polka dots on it, we'd say 'that's a Jay sweater,'" says Wendy.

Jay and her second husband, Peter, were joined at the hip. They had been set up on a blind date. He arrived at Jay's home to find a photo pinned to the door. Written on it was, "If you like what you see, knock." They were married within a year.

Biking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing and travelling together - they were the perfect match. They also ran a consulting business, with Jay handling the marketing and PR. There was no challenge she couldn't overcome, except one - cancer.

Jay left this world on her terms, five days after family and friends gathered for a celebration of her life. Vibrant, opinionated and exceedingly generous, Jay left her children Ryan and Shanna, grandchildren Bryanna, Grace, Ava and Blake, her husband Peter, her sisters and brother Gordi. Sadly, her brother Bill died just a month after her.

Sheryl Bennett-Wilson is a friend of Jay's.

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