Victoria Wilcox died suddenly on November 24, 2020. Friends report that although she was reluctant to go to the hospital and especially reluctant to leave her beloved black cat Josh, she went away in the ambulance making jokes and entertaining the EMS team as they went. She passed away very soon after arriving at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto. That was Victoria – always full of humour and always concerned for other peoples’ feelings. With her last breath no doubt she made someone nearby laugh.
Victoria was born in Toronto on June 23, 1952, the daughter of Rose Meisel and John Holland Wilcox and sister of Karl. Her mother fled Austria after Kristallnacht, heading to Haiti with her family. Canada was reluctant to accept Jewish refugees at the time, but Victoria’s grandfather was schoolmates with Thomas Bata ( Bata Shoes), who was able to help secure Canadian visas for the family. Years later Victoria took great delight in tracking down long lost branches of her family.
Victoria attended St. Clement’s School in Toronto and developed close friendships there, which she maintained throughout her life. She regaled her friends with memories of an orange creamsicle tossed by some recalcitrant pupil into the upright piano at assembly thus thwarting the morning hymn, and other pranks played on class teachers. She was a brilliant student and went on to major in history at Victoria College at the University of Toronto followed by a Master’s Degree at Queen’s University where she wrote her thesis on John Buchan/Lord Tweedsmuir the author of The 39 Steps and the 15th Governor General of Canada. She was honoured many years later by the John Buchan Society in England and spoke at an annual conference there.
After graduating Victoria returned to Toronto and worked at The Multi-Cultural History Society, but left when a chance to work at the CBC arose. The CBC was where she found her life-long career and home from her days in the old Parliament Street studios with Tuffy the famous office cat to Jarvis Street to the new headquarters on Front Street. She began in audience services fielding phone calls from both pleased and irate listeners with sensitivity and her ever-present good humour. During her 25 year career at CBC Radio she worked on two shows, “Morningside” with Peter Gzowski and “Ontario Morning” which is still on air today. She later produced the Hotsheet which is circulated within the CBC as well as to subscribers, some of whom became her friends as well as the life-long friendships she forged with her colleagues.
Victoria loved words and was a formidable Scrabble player as well as an excellent writer and communicator. She retained an exceptionally wide range of knowledge and was a grammar expert! She once participated in a novel writing contest in a bookstore window in Owen Sound and managed to complete an entire novel within a weekend. She loved detective fiction as well as humorous novels such as P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves series and Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. She also enjoyed collecting childhood favourites like Walter R. Brooks’ Freddy the Pig series and Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.
Victoria loved food and fun and silliness. She loved to cook for her friends in small gatherings. She loathed big parties, yet was extremely sociable. She made everything from raclette and fondue to homemade soups and casseroles. She loved kitchen gadgets and amassed a collection of unique culinary tools. She was exceptionally fond of ice cream and usually had a variety of flavours on offer. She struggled with weight issues her entire life and tried every possible diet and weight loss scheme from bite counting to Weight Watchers and even surgery. None of these things worked and unfortunately she suffered many health issues such as arthritis, hip and knee replacements, heart problems and sleep apnea. But which she bore all of her physical ailments with tremendous fortitude. She rarely complained of the pain that must have been increasingly severe. She kept a cheerful countenance and brushed her own problems aside, always quick to focus on others and their needs. She was always fun and funny and never judged anyone. She understood better than anyone how words can hurt and was always gentle and compassionate in her relationships. She could often find the positive spin on things and no matter how sad or serious a problem was she could produce a smile, a giggle, a chortle or a belly laugh as needed.
Victoria was a talented musician and played guitar from a young age. She had a beautiful singing voice and loved a wide range of artists, her favourite undoubtedly being Emmy-Lou Harris. She played many instruments from congas to double bass and tuba. She was the percussionist for several folk-rock groups such as The Welfare Starlets, Goldilox and the Bagels, and The Cajun Ramblers.
After retiring from the CBC Victoria devoted her energies to volunteer work at The Second Harvest Food Bank and at St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto. She tended an information station directing people to appointments and wards where their loved ones lay. It is easy to imagine the comforting smiles and kindness with which she would have guided people through the hospital maze. Even when her own ailments were increasing she did not sit home. She kept up several shifts a week at the hospital right until the pandemic forced her to stay home last winter.
Victoria loved her cats from Flanders and Swan named for the beloved musical duo to Josh and Maggie her most recent pair. Maggie required much veterinary care including a great deal of medication and on-going injections delivered by a vet tech at her home. Victoria did not begrudge the cost, but ever resourceful and creative, she worked out a barter arrangement tutoring the vet tech’s son in exchange for the cat care.
Victoria loved her niece Simon and her nephew-in-law, Vince, devotedly and kept in close contact despite their move to California. Victoria was proud of their accomplishments and never more proud than when Simon and Vince adopted their sons Isaac and Quinn. She took tremendous delight in their weekly Facetime chats and loved being a great aunt as much as she did being an aunt. She was all about love and was the heart of her family.
Victoria is survived by her brother Karl, his wife Dale, and will be sorely missed by her niece Simon and nephew-in-law Vince and their two children, as well as her uncle John Meisel (former head of The CRTC and the Royal Society), and her many, many friends who loved her deeply. Her ashes will be interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in the family plot alongside her grandparents, Fryda and Anna Meisel and her mother Rose.
Donations in her memory can be made to Doctors Without Borders, Second Harvest or St. Michael’s Hospital.
Our most sincere sympathies to the family and friends of Victoria Margaret Wilcox June 23 1952 November 24 2020 (age 68)..
Death notice for the town of: Mississauga, Province: Ontario