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Friday January 18, 2013

Dora Codrington

Mother, grandmother, physiotherapist, traveller, friend to all. Born April 29, 1929, in Trinidad, died July 23, 2012, in Toronto of cancer, aged 83.

Dora placed the utmost importance on family, faith and food.

She studied and practised pharmacy in her native Trinidad before coming to Canada to become a physiotherapist. While studying at McGill University, she met her future husband, Dr. Walter Codrington. They married while in university and then moved to Toronto with their children David, Michael, Jim and Margaret.

Shortly after they arrived in Toronto, Walter became seriously ill and because Dora was unable to look after him as well as the children, he went to live with his parents in New York.

Now, Dora needed a job. She applied for a rehab position requiring a driver's licence and a car, neither of which she had. She was hired, and then had to ask her friends with vehicles to help her learn to drive. She passed her driving test, and a friend sold her a secondhand station wagon, which she was able to use for the job.

One of the people Dora met in the tight-knit Caribbean community was hockey player Herb Carnegie. He encouraged her to save $50 a month. Following his advice, she was eventually able to put a down payment on a house - a relief because in the 1960s it was difficult for a single black woman, particularly one with four children, to find rented accommodation.

Dora taught physiotherapy at the University of Toronto before heading up the physiotherapy department at a seniors' residence. She left that position to start a private practice, which she ran until she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 79.

She started travelling the world in her 60s, making frequent trips far and wide that earned her the perfectly accurate title of "Dora the Explorer." She also took up painting in her 60s and piano in her 70s. She read voraciously, was an avid gardener, an accomplished singer and a relentless dancer. She sat on the board of a number of charities.

The door to the Codringtons' 700-square-foot house was always open. If you weren't a friend when you came to the door, you were when you left. There was always a stranger or two at the table. If you were planning to spend Christmas by yourself, Dora would not have it.

When the Children's Aid Society called and asked Dora if she would foster a child, she did not hesitate. There was always room for one more. She fostered two daughters long-term, just to add to the maelstrom of activity in the house.

Everyone who knew Dora knew about her weekly Sunday meals, when she would often cook for 20 people and not so much sit at the table as preside over it, a monarch and a matriarch.

People often talked about her smile, her laughter and her elegance, but these were only the outward expression of the most extraordinary aspect of Dora's persona: her faith. Hers was a life of worship. As precious as her family and friends were to her, the pearl of greatest price was her faith - the cause of which all else was but effect.

Jim and Margaret Codrington are Dora's children.

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