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Rosemary Hardwick

Pride Toronto volunteer touched many lives

Pride volunteer Rosemary Hardwick died Jan 7 of heart failure. Credit: Doreen Engelberts

When long-time Pride Toronto (PT) volunteer Rosemary Hardwick moved to Canada 26 years ago, she was able to come out proudly as a lesbian, her wife says. Finally free, she devoted the rest of her life to Toronto’s queer community.

Hardwick died suddenly on Jan 7 of heart failure. She was 54. Her death was a shock to friends and family, particularly her wife, Stacey Elizabeth Ferguson.

“She wanted to live her life as who she was,” Beth says. “Until she arrived in Toronto, she wasn’t able to be free and out. When she arrived in Canada, she came out as lesbian and lived her life as a lesbian. That was important to her.”

The couple met while volunteering together in 1989. Beth describes Rosemary as “vibrant, compassionate, intelligent, funny, energetic, creative and beautiful. This is a huge loss.”

Hardwick moved to Canada from Queensland, Australia, in 1986. She was an educator, a community mental health worker, a nurse and a suicide prevention trainer with a particular interest in helping gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans youth. She served as chair of the Toronto Suicide Information Alliance.

“She saw all the gay youth suicides and the bullying and wanted to help,” Beth says. “She was a vibrant force who really tried to make a positive difference. And she did.”

Hardwick was very active in the Toronto community. PT board member Mark Smith says she played a vital role in Pride planning for about 14 years.

“Courage and passion make a difference,” Smith says. “For 14 years, Rosemary volunteered her courage, standing up for what she felt was right for our community and sharing her passion, which carried us forward. I am going to miss her.”

Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes says she was also very active as a church volunteer.

“She had such passion for safe spaces, for helping people with addictions. She was really amazing,” he says.

Hawkes says Hardwick embodied all the qualities of what the Pride movement stands for. As a Pride activist, she was outspoken and contributed greatly during the Community Advisory Panel process last year.

“She just loved the organization and really wanted it to turn around. She was so happy that Pride was starting to move in the direction she wanted it to go.”

Former volunteer Tyler Johnson, who became close friends with Hardwick during his time as PT youth coordinator, calls her a role model.

“We became best friends. Her last words to me via email were, ‘Pride is so much a part of me and my life in Canada. I have done it for so many years that I cannot think of doing anything else.’

“I am very disheartened to hear of her passing and will miss her dearly. She was my inspiration, a role model, and I will never forget the time I spent with her.”

Visitation will take place from 4pm to 8pm on Jan 13 at the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home & Chapel at 467 Sherbourne St. A funeral service is planned for 2pm on Jan 14 at the Metropolitan Community Church, at 115 Simpson Ave.

A reception will follow at the church at 3pm. In lieu of flowers, Beth has asked that donations be made to the Metropolitan Community Church.