Whistler lost a bit of its spark with the recent passing of Eileen Tomalty, who passed away July 24 in Langley at the age of 85.
The Tomaltys — Eileen and husband Gordon — were fixtures in the Whistler scene in the 1990s as they started the Mature Action Committee in 1993 and the Elizabeth Manso Visiting Volunteers Service shortly after. Gordon Tomalty, who also served as a councillor, died in 2008.
The Tomaltys had retired in Whistler but as Gordon's health deteriorated, they abandoned their longstanding dream of building senior housing here and moved to North Vancouver.
Eileen, who in later years suffered from Alzheimer's, was living in a Langley care facility when she passed away, but her three children remember her as a force to be reckoned with and a lovely woman who earned the respect and friendship of anyone she met.
"My dad always said, 'she may be small but she is huge in spirit,'" Wendy Cameron said of her mother. "She was hard to keep up with."
Eileen was an inspiration — and an incredibly brave woman — to daughter Heather Tomalty, and twins Warren Tomalty and Wendy Cameron.
Eileen and Gordon travelled the world as Gordon's career with the RCMP took them to exotic locations.
"She was very independent," recalled Cameron. "I remember when they went to South America and my mother went to places on her own. I would never have been brave enough to do that."
It was a wanderlust, an energy and a curiosity that propelled Eileen to try just about everything, from acquiring glider-pilot skills at age 50, to bungee jumping at age 60.
Eileen trained as a geologist, but back in the 50s, a woman couldn't get the same field experience as men. Eileen then became a registered nurse and by the time her three children came along, she was organized — and inspiring as she seemingly mastered everything she tried, from pottery and piano, to choir and volunteering.
"She always said you can't just sit still and do nothing — you can't be idle," said Cameron.
"She was a spark," said Heather. "I'm trying to get my head around all the things she's done. She never took anything for granted, and always got involved."
Along with her live-large attitude, her children said she instilled in them her own fearlessness.
"She taught us not to be afraid of trying things," said Heather.
Warren said his mother had a wonderful sense of humour. "Even though she had Alzheimer's she would smile and joke. She was a sparkplug with extra power," he said with a laugh.
A memorial for Eileen Tomalty will be held Aug. 22 at the Maury Young Arts Centre at 2 p.m.
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