Just who is “Dolly Reny”? A look back and perhaps you will come to know her in some small way because I don’t think 500 words can accurately explain who she really was.
Marguerite “Dolly” O’Toole was born in Regina, Saskatchewan on November 28th, 1914. She was the seventh born of ten children, having four brothers and five sisters. The family grew up in the Town of Lebret which is a picturesque small town in the Qu’Appelle Valley, forty or so miles east of Regina. Their father was the station master for CN Rail and their mother was a homemaker raising her large family; later on her own when the marriage broke down. From what we heard it was a happy, hard-working family, helping each other and living the full life of a small town. She remained close to her brothers and sisters although she didn’t see them often as they mostly remained in Western Canada and Dolly lived in Eastern Canada.
Dolly came east as a 17 year old when she was a nanny for a Doctor who was promoted from his position in the Tuberculosis Hospital near Lebret to become the head of the TB Association in Ottawa. She travelled there with them to care for their two young sons. In the Lindenlea area of Ottawa she met her future husband Joseph Henry Louis Reny at a skating rink. Eventually Louis joined the royal Canadian Air Force. They had eight children together, two of whom did not survive their first three months; five children in a ten year span and then a sixth some 13 years later. I was one of those children and Dolly Reny was our mother.
Being part of the military we were required to move often and mostly between Ontario and Quebec bases. I am sure this was very hard on my mother but she never wavered in her encouragement of how great the next posting was going to be. She helped us with homework when we attended French schools (even though her mother tongue was English). She was always cheerful and I don’t ever recall a mean or cross word from my mother no matter what the provocation. Yet she knew how to make her children behave simply with a look. To this day we call her discipline “The Look”. Some of us seem to have inherited “the Look” in dealing with our own families. Dolly, or Mother, played games with us. She played cards with us. She played the piano and we all stood around singing old songs together. They were some of the most memorable times of my childhood. She always had surprises hidden away such as chocolate bars or candies for special treats and sometimes even forgot where she had hidden them and then the search for them became a game. She was the glue that held our family together.
In her later years she lived here in North Bay. This had been one of our postings and she always said she would come back to live in North Bay because she liked it so much. She moved to North Bay in 1989 and she lived near the North Bay Mall and loved to wander over there and window shop. She also loved to travel in later years when she was on her own. When we were growing up she always said that her big dream was to go to Hawaii and she did manage to do that in her late 60’s. During her travels and throughout her life she had the great quality of being a good listener. Whether it was the person next to her on a plane, standing at a bus stop, riding the train, or sitting on a bench at the Mall, wherever she went her words were kind and positive and she made that lonely person feel better. She truly had a quality about her that makes her the kind of person we would all like to emulate.
Mother loved her grandchildren dearly and had a special way to relate to young people. They were her friends. Each of her grandchildren could tell their story of a special time and some escapade they shared with their Nanny and which was their secret and not for Mom or Dad to know. She was indeed a special person to her children, family and friends and she left her mark in many hearts. This leaf is a special way of remembering her forever.
Honoured by her family.