A Tribute to Rosemary Hardwick
Rosemary Hardwick died of a heart attack on January 7, 2012, at the age of 54. Her death was sudden and unexpected and she didn’t get the chance to say thank you and goodbye to anyone. I know she would want me, Beth, her wife and partner of 23 years, to say it to you for her.
Rosemary was born in Gordonvale, Queensland, Australia and she grew up in a tropical Paradise surrounded by pristine beaches, lush rainforests, glorious wildlife, volcanic crater rainwater lakes, sugar cane fields, the Coral Sea and the Great Barrier Reef. In her later years, she often told me she missed the smell in the air, like molasses, of the cane being crushed, and the sound of birds in the morning - hundreds of Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets and Budgerigars, among others, high in the trees - all announcing the start of a new day.
The day after she died I was in Rosemary’s office at our home in Toronto and I saw something that I’d never noticed before, taped to the side of the filing cabinet, within arm’s reach of her chair. It was Rosemary’s Certificate of Investiture as a Ranger Guide, dated October 21, 1974, from the Tablelands Unit, Queensland. I knew that Rosemary was very proud she had achieved the highest level in Guiding - Queen’s Guide. But she had to become a Ranger first, and this had been so important to her that she kept this card very near, even while living on the other side of the earth, 38 years after it was issued to her. It read:
Service to the community was clearly a responsibility that Rosemary took seriously. And it’s the way she lived her life, in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres.
Rosemary travelled the world with Guiding with stops in Western Australia, Guatemala, Texas and Hong Kong, where she was voted Most Popular Camper. In the early eighties she spent the better part of two years at Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico, one of four world centres owned by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Ro loved Mexico and she learned to speak Spanish quite well. Being from the tropics she had never seen snow and so was curious about how it felt to be in a snow storm. She had a friend in Mexico stand on a bed above and behind her and vigorously shake baby powder down upon her. The powder came down in clumps and stung as it hit her arms and face. She concluded that being snowed upon must hurt a lot.
She spent the summer of 1988 at Doe Lake in Ontario. Although Rosemary loved Guiding, and Guiding had been a tremendously positive influence in her life, later that fall, for sadly predictable reasons, she felt compelled to leave the Guiding world behind, in order to explore the exciting new world in Toronto that was beckoning to her. It was as if she’d followed a rainbow from one end of the earth to the other, and she certainly landed well. Rosemary threw herself into Toronto’s joyful, vibrant, flamboyant, energetic, visionary and, sometimes exasperating, LGBTTIQQ2SA Community. She was incredibly grateful our Community was here. She had also always wanted to see snow first hand and finally got to experience the real thing, which wasn’t that bad after all.
Over the years she volunteered for, among other organizations, the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival, the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children, TIFF, The Woman’s Common, where she and I first met in 1989, and for PRIDE Toronto.
Ro loved PRIDE and she volunteered with them for over 13 years. She was a Team Lead for many years and helped create Free Zone, now called Clean, Sober and Proud Place. As a nurse and educator in mental health and addictions, she felt passionately that people should have the option of a safe space at PRIDE where they could fully enjoy the party, substance free. She also worked on the Family Pride, Fundraising, and 40 Plus Committees, and brought Laughter Yoga to the corner of Church and Gloucester in 2011.
She was delighted in 2009 when PRIDE was awarded World Pride 2014, and was looking forward to welcoming the world, especially the Aussies and Kiwis, to Toronto, the adopted hometown she had grown to love.
In 2012, in Rosemary’s honour, PRIDE created The Hardwick Award, given annually to the most dedicated PRIDE Volunteer.
Also in 2012, the We’re Funny That Way Foundation honoured Rosemary posthumously with the Salah Bachir Award for Community Service.
Rosemary would be the first to say that she got back as much as she gave. “What goes around, comes around”, she often said. You, her Community, made her feel included, respected, valued, cherished and loved, and that was extremely important to her. She would want me to thank you, on her behalf, for enriching her life. She was so proud of her Community. She was so proud of all that we accomplished together. And she was honoured to have been given the opportunity to contribute.
She was thrilled to be able to legally marry and on July 8, 2006, she proudly carried her bouquet of Cooktown Orchids, the State Flower of Queensland, down the aisle and became my wife.
Rosemary met her friend Craig in the early eighties when they both nursed in Western Australia. Craig was a few years younger and Rosemary quickly realized that a small, rough, outback mining town might not be the best place for a young male nurse struggling to understand his sexuality. She suggested he move to Perth, advice Craig later credited with saving his life. Over the next 15 years he thrived personally and professionally in Perth, and then found even greater success in the subsequent decade after moving to London, England.
Craig visited us in Toronto at Christmas, 1992, and after we picked him up from the airport, he asked us to stop the car so he could slide on the ice in the ditch beside the road. He’d never seen ice like this and couldn’t quite believe it was there. I took him skiing for the first time in his life, and he always enthusiastically volunteered to scrape the ice off our car windows. The only time I ever chopped down a Christmas tree was in the company of these two charming Aussies, both giddy at having the opportunity to celebrate the season shivering in the cold while stomping through a snowy field, instead of wilting in the scorching heat under a blazing sun.
Ro and Craig saw each other for the last time in Toronto in March, 1997, and had their final conversation in August, 2011. Craig was devastated when I called to tell him Ro had died, and he was determined to fly across the Atlantic to attend her funeral. He read the beautiful and iconic Australian poem, My Country, at Ro’s service, and he supported me through her visitation, funeral, cremation, and the placement of the urn containing her ashes on our fireplace mantle. These were the five worst days of my life and I was deeply in shock. It was incomprehensible to me that one day I had Rosemary before me, vibrant, gregarious, full of life, the happiest I had ever seen her, and the next I had a lock of her hair. Having Craig with me helped.
As we reminisced about Rosemary, Craig suddenly remembered that when she’d left Perth years before, she had asked him to store a suitcase for her. She had always intended to return to Australia, and both she and Craig had completely forgotten about the case. He thought he might still have it in his mother’s garage, and I told him he could do what he wanted with the contents, but if there happened to be any small Guiding items that could easily be mailed to Canada, like badges, pins or scarfs, I’d love to have them.
Craig and I kept in close contact throughout 2012, as I struggled to find an appropriate date for the interment of Ro’s ashes. In October, 2012, Craig, having recently experienced World Pride in London, suggested that it might be a good idea for Ro’s interment to take place during World Pride 2014. The minute he suggested it, I knew there’d be no better time to inter Ro’s ashes, and I knew she’d think it perfect, too.
Craig visited his Mom, Bobbie, in Perth at Christmas, 2013, and found Ro’s suitcase. Inside, a little worse for wear, was Ro’s Guide Poncho, covered in badges. Bobbie took it upon herself to mend the tears, make sure loose badges were sewn on tight, and had the Poncho dry cleaned and couriered to Craig in London. He’s bringing it to give to me in June, when he’s coming to participate in Ro’s interment, to attend World Pride, and to introduce Toronto to his partner, James.
Rosemary’s urn is as beautiful a blue as her eyes, with splashes of purple, her favourite colour, and gold on top, like her lovely, fine hair. It’s covered with blue butterflies, like the Ulysses butterflies of Queensland, her guides back to Paradise.
Rosemary’s ashes are being interred the morning of Saturday, June 28, World Pride Weekend, at St. James Cemetery at Parliament and Wellesley. She’ll rest on the sunny side of the Columbarium, facing south towards Australia, overlooking the former site of The Woman’s Common where she and I met, just yesterday, it seems. Her Ranger Investiture Card and some of her Guide Badges are being interred in the Niche with her, and I’ll be wearing Ro’s Guide Poncho throughout her Interment Ceremony. Her Guide name Kinka, an Aboriginal word, will be included in the inscription on her Niche. When my time comes, my ashes will be interred in the same Niche, enclosed inside Rosemary’s Guide Dilly Bag. I’m very grateful that Guiding brought Rosemary across the ocean and into my life.
So thanks everyone, from Ro, for years of fun! And for working to make a real difference in peoples’ lives. And for being world leaders in the fight for our rights. And for giving a girl from Gordonvale a place to discover who she truly was. She’d want to be remembered for her great laugh, her warm hugs, and the mischievous twinkle in her eye. Rosemary loved people and she got a lot of joy out of life. She enjoyed meeting and volunteering with you all.
Thank you to the LGBTTIQQ2SA Community of Toronto, from the beautiful, compassionate, loving heart of Rosemary Hardwick, which, sadly, stopped beating far too soon.