above all else, one must retain their sense of humour.
Isabella Thorburn Donaldson (McKinlay) passed peacefully on April 26th, 2023 at 93 with her daughter Carolyn and granddaughter Kendall flanking her side. It was a beautiful spring day, her favourite time of year. She is no doubt reunited with her late husband, Adam - who we just know greeted her upon arrival with a dance.
She leaves behind a group of strong women and their wonderfully kind and funny partners; her devoted daughter Carolyn - whom she loved endlessly - there was never a dull moment nor day that went by that the two of them didn't speak. Their mother-daughter relationship was nothing short of beautiful - one Carolyn has continued with her own daughter. Isabella also leaves behind her passionate granddaughter Kendall who she was ever so proud of and the light of her life, Kendall's sweet, charming and dedicated husband Chris. She also sadly leaves her greatest joy - her feverishly curious great-granddaughter, Simone - who she was just tickled to live long enough to meet. Isabella and her family are thankful to her steadfast nieces and their partners Cornelia and Pat as well as Beverly and Phil - who are proven examples of just how deep love and friendship can bond. She loved them tirelessly.
To her close friends she was known as Isabel or Is and she made friends wherever she went. As a young girl she was always bright, talented and full of progressive ideas. She also wasn't one who was ever afraid of adventure. Her life in Edinburgh, Scotland was one she spoke of often. She was one of five children and the second youngest. Her parents were loving, kind and humble people. Isabella was very close with her parents, brothers and sister for the majority of their life. Their deaths over the years sadly took a piece of her own heart with them - as her connection to her family was what was, and remained, the most important thing to her very being.
Isabel's affection for Scotland, her home - never dwindled. She told stories of home often and allowed anyone who listened to be transported. Her stories of the Highlands, the blades of grass swaying in the wind on Arthur's Seat or the thistles that grew at the campsite her family would visit always painted such vivid pictures. Amongst her favourite memories were the bike rides she would take, sometimes traveling upwards of 20 kilometers in a day to explore, the annual family trips they would take - annually visiting the beautiful small town of Port Seton (the town her late husband was from but didn't meet for many years later), the dances she would attend (naturally, her dance card was always full), and the dresses she and her friends would make in preparation. She was a good student excelling in Typing and Shorthand, later in life it would be those skills that would set her apart. She loved to humblebrag about the speed and accuracy in which she could do both, a skillset she practiced almost up until her death. She was also a decorated athlete winning championships in Sprint and Hurdles.
Isabel met her late husband Adam at a dance, where the big band music of the era was playing and she would be found dancing the night away and he - watching and admiring before cutting in. She was admired by many, a fabulous looking woman both on and off the dancefloor. They fell in love and were married in in 1952 at a humble and beautiful ceremony. It must be said she wore a beautiful brown suit, proving she was progressive even on her wedding day.
Her other passion was travel. In 1953 her wanderlust spirit was set ablaze when she found out her brother and sister in law had decided to set sail and immigrate to Canada for better opportunities. In a quick and impulsive move her and Adam signed themselves up 24 hours thereafter, a move she often struggled with and at times - regretted - for it meant being so far away from all she knew and those she loved.
The ship docked in Montreal and one of the best stories Isabel told was that upon disembarking, folks were handing out Oh Henry! candy bars as a welcome promotion. She had been so seasick on the voyage that she was offered two bars. She ate both and that was her first meal on Canadian soil and settled her stomach immediately.
From Montreal they took the train to Toronto where they rented a one room apartment as they searched for employment and a home. Isabel's shorthand and typing skills landed her a job in less than a week and Adam soon followed. Years in Toronto allowed them both to save enough money for their first home - a modest bungalow on the outskirts of the city. It was here they were able to live out their next adventure and where they welcomed their first and only daughter in 1959. Isabel's progression as an Executive Secretary flourished working for Cadillac Fairview through the 60’s and 70’s. She quickly made friends with the other secretaries - friends who would become like family that would last her entire lifetime. Pursuing her earlier interest in travel, Isabel by now in her 40’s went to College to become a Travel Agent, a job she was passionate about and like everything she did, excelled at.
They turned that house into a home and filled it with precious memories with their beautiful daughter. The greatest memories made were at social gatherings and parties. Either big dinner parties, Christmas gatherings or in the summer - their backyard pool parties. Belly laughter and BBQs quickly became the neighbourhoods favourite way to spend any Saturday - and the place to do it was at The Donaldson residence.
Isabel kept in touch with her friends and family overseas, she often could be found writing letters that detailed her plans of upcoming family trips and travels to far off destinations with her daughter, though nothing made her happier than planning and visiting home. Some of Isabel's most cherished memories shared were of visiting Scotland with her daughter, Carolyn. Watching her experience the love of the land she grew up on. Travel continued for them as a family as they visited Hawaii, Florida, England, Caribbean and trips to Myrtle Beach.
Of all the places Isabel visited, the two that she spoke of often were India and the Galapagos Islands. Both greatly shaped her as an individual as she became more self aware of her surroundings, our planet and those she interacted with along the way. Her takeaway from travel was obvious - it was her faith in humanity and the kindness found in cultures, the people and their beliefs that made places worth experiencing. Her view on traveling the world was beautiful and listening to her talk about her treks in India and falling in love with an wild elephant named Parboyte or setting sail in the UNESCO protected waters of the pacific ocean and swimming with the giant tortoise are bucket list items people only dream of making reality.
Isabel's other dream came true when her granddaughter was born in the spring of 1987. Isabel's favourite thing in the world was being a Grandma - both Isabel and Adam were both fantastic grandparents who continued to never shy away from adventure - a spirit they passed on to Kendall immediately.
Decades spent playing, learning and growing together allowed this small and mighty family to become so close. Friendships continued to form and many friends turned into family over the years. The common thread between them all being a great sense of humour and laughter, one thing Isabel loved was a right good giggle!
After retiring Isabel and her husband Adam moved to a quiet town and settled into the community where they were just as involved as you'd imagine. They continued to share their passions with friends and even picked up a few new hobbies along the way.
There were two instances where this dynamic duo needed to work together to turn their hobbies into semi-professional (albeit unpaid) jobs. The first for Christmas when their granddaughter, Kendall, asked for a Barbie dream house - Adam got to building a mid-century modern home furniture suite and Isabel got to crafting bed linens, table linens, carpets and pillows. This Barbie dreamhouse was the best thing you've ever seen. The second, almost two decades later, was the wedding favours at Kendall and Chris's wedding where Adam handmade over 300 wooden kitchen utensils for cooking, as culinary and food were a theme for the wedding. Adam carved, etched and handcrafted each utensil while Isabel stained, painted, dipped and tied a bow on every bouquet of wooden sets. Both of these acts of love were undeniably some of the best moments in Kendall's life.
A few years later Kendall and Chris welcomed their daughter, Simone. Both Adam and Isabel were just thrilled to be great-grandparents and shared their hopes and dreams with what they imagined Simone’s future would look like.
Isabel's greatest accomplishment, she would likely say, was living long enough to become a Gigi - to be able to meet and forge a relationship with her Simone, whose second name is Isabella. This would forever be a deep relationship, one we all promise to honour and continue to share now that she is no longer here.
Isabel leaves behind her family but also countless dear friends and her baby brother Eric McKinlay of Edinburgh, Scotland who, although was thousands of miles away, was her very best friend.
The world was forever changed by this magnetic woman and may we all keep our memories of her close to our hearts forever. We know she would not want us to mourn, but instead - remind ourselves that above all else, one must always retain their sense of humour.
Until we meet again.