grace c

A beneficiary of Cooey values
Grace appreciated a bit of well-timed mischief

By Tom G. Kernaghan

Mar. 1, 1928

I wish you Health,
I wish you Wealth,
I wish you gold in store,
I wish you Heaven after death,
What could I wish you more?

A.S. Gray

“If only my lower legs were just an inch or two longer,” Grace used to say.

It was never quite clear to me if this quip was really a comment on herself as a woman, or if she simply meant that a couple more inches of leg bone would’ve come in handy in athletics. And Grace was passionate about sports—basketball, baseball, volleyball, badminton, hockey, swimming, golf, and, according to the June 1927 Central Technical School (CTS) Vulcan, riding camels.

I don’t recall Grace mentioning anything about camels on Bathurst Street. Maybe we never really know our grandmothers.

For me, her desire for longer legs has become symbolic of her ability to do the very best with what she had. And it reflected not only her fortitude, but her sense of humour as well.

In this column, I have looked at the many personal disappointments and challenges Grace had to overcome as an Annex youth and as a woman before and after the Second World War. But that’s not to say her life was one of unmitigated suffering. As a career woman and active member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association, she travelled the world and had many rewarding experiences. She raised two fiercely loyal children and enjoyed the relative comfort of the Cooey financial legacy. But she was also the beneficiary of strong Cooey values—qualities that stood her in good stead not matter what befell her.

Grace 1945
Grace Eleanor Cooey in June 1945.

Some of her character, it must be noted, was forged within the walls of CTS. As the alumni and exchanges editor for the Vulcan, and a member of the publication’s founding team, Grace believed in and lived by magazine’s aim: “To encourage all to develop Industry, Intelligence & Integrity.” Whether playing sports, studying, or writing up the achievements of CTS alumni, she was often buoyed by her natural sense of humour and, I might add, her appreciation for a bit of well-timed mischief.

Days before her death, she was barely able to speak or drink. However, she had enough pluck to request her gin and tonic, which we slipped past nurses in a plastic “sippy” cup. As she went through life, she never lost her ability to recall a funny story, poem, or joke, well into her old age.

However, one thing she didn’t tolerate was malicious gossip. She often said, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Though trite to some, these words, or their application, have saved my duff on more than a few occasions.

Grace started in the Annex in 1910, and left Earth in 1998. She touched many people in many positive ways. I have done my best to tell her story as accurately as possible, and I hope my words have not been a betrayal of her memory. But then, she always told me: “You are getting too big for your britches.” So I am ever mindful of my conduct, and it has a lot to do with her.

Maybe Grace never needed those extra inches of leg after all.

This concludes Tom G. Kernaghan’s year-long series, Through Grace’s Eyes, a monthly column on Grace Eleanor Cooey, who was born and raised in the Annex at the beginning of the 20th century.

(Gleaner News, Toronto)

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