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June 8th, 2020


By Erin Toner, FamilyHome Coordinator

When the FamilyHome Team was asked to share a story, it was a natural choice to write about Shirley Seale. Shirley was a fixture around Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region for many years. Sadly, she lost her battle with cancer in December.

I knew Shirley for 8 years, but her time with EAFWR dates well back to…well, we don’t really know! Shirley was much too dynamic a woman to simply offer a chronology of her involvement with EAFWR over the years. Instead, we would like to offer some highlights.

  • With ONE PERSON, her roles included 1:1 Direct Support Person, Respite Provider, and FamilyHome Provider. She held these roles with many other people too!
  • Informally, Shirley personified many other roles: friend, advocate, nurse.
  • She was a cheerleader, and an enthusiastic guest at many EAFWR events, including BBQs, DSP celebrations, picnics, and FamilyHome’s Annual Fall Feast.
  • She offered moral support, and food and drink to many, most memorably, a sandwich board-wearing Little Caesars employee!
  • She was outspoken, whether in support of someone, or calling someone out: no impressive language, no holding back, no offense.
  • “Mi casa es su casa.” She welcomed everyone into her home, regardless of whether you were just visiting, or one of the family!

Shirley was fun, and a delight to work with. She was also very caring, and supported many people, even in their final days. In her own final weeks, from her bed at Grand River Hospital, she was still making us laugh.

Shirley had a remarkable bond with a man named Doug, whom she supported over many many years. He was very much part of the family. I can only imagine the hours spent around their dining room table, talking, joking, laughing, and sharing meals together. Doug lived with Ed and Shirley for three and a half years, even following her diagnosis, but eventually a change needed to made, and a new home was needed for Doug. Shirley stayed in touch over the last year with phone calls and visits, despite her illness and its impact. 

About three weeks after her death, Doug and I went to visit her husband, Ed. Talk about feeling like the third wheel! It was like a reunion of two kindred spirits. The joy, laughter, hugs and, of course, the horseplay, was something special. Shortly after that visit I received a message from Ed, “I hope you can bring Dougie over again sometime soon!”