February 21, 1941 – September 6, 2012
As she lay at home in her beautiful sunroom, surrounded by family, prayers and hymns, Barbara drew her last breath, knowing that everything she believed in was right: That love is stronger than death. That education overcomes ignorance. That stories are more compelling than facts. That travel broadens the mind. That a child can change the world. That the bonds of family are stronger than anything else.
Barbara lived her beliefs and this was reflected in everything she did. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, her parents George and Phyllis Harrison laid the foundations for those beliefs. They were complimented by her husband and beloved companion of 49 years, Derek Emmerson. Her passion for education as a teacher and leader led her to the role as the first female principal in the Richelieu Valley School Board in Quebec, followed by Director of the Junior School at Montreal’s Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s School, the Head of Vancouver’s Crofton House School, and finally Victoria’s Glenlyon Norfolk School. Along the way, she constructed buildings, stayed ahead of the technology curve, inspiring teachers and cultivating young minds, while firmly committed to her beliefs and always willing to learn.
Barbara’s retirement to Salt Spring Island, B.C. in 1993 didn’t extinguish her desire to teach and explore the world’s cultures. She traveled to faraway places, most recently Egypt to work with Somalian refugees at the time of the uprising in Tahrir Square. In 1997 and 1998 she worked at the Alcanta School in China where, as Head of the English Department she mentored young Chinese and Canadian teachers all the while falling in love with the Chinese culture, the people and the way of life. While there, opportunities arose for visits to Nepal, India and Bali where she developed a deep love of the beauty and spirituality.
A life long teacher, Barbara’s passions lay in current events, art, education, women’s issues, literacy, music, books, good food, champagne, travel, being Canadian, seeing her grandchildren learn and grow, and above all God. Close to the end Barbara said she had no regrets and no guilt, a guiding principle of her life.
She leaves behind a family that will always be a reflection of her beliefs: her husband Derek, daughters Mary Lue (Pete), Naomi (Jake), and Dawn (Gordon); grandchildren Jasper, Aysha, Callum and Ewan; her brother George Harrison (Shirley), sisters Trish Nanayakkara (Jim) and Deborah Owen (Michael) and their families.
The Emmersons thank the wonderful caregivers who supported Barbara and the family, including the doctors of the BC Cancer Agency, Dr. Crossland, the Home Support Nurses on Salt Spring Island and in Victoria as well as Johanna, Kaitlin, Trish and Amy.
Two memorial services will be held to celebrate Barbara’s life. The first will take place on Sunday, September 16th at 11:30 am, after the regular 10 am service, at All Saints Anglican Church on Saltspring Island. Another service will take place in Toronto on Saturday, October 20th at 2 pm, at York Minster Park Baptist Church on Yonge Street. Donations in Barbara’s memory can be made to the Canadian Cancer Society or the Canadian Red Cross.