OBITUARY

Colleen Sharon Levis

October 1, 1946October 14, 2016

Colleen Levis: October 1, 1946 – October 14, 2016: Seventy Years of A Full Life. Colleen was always a woman in motion. She was born in Calgary, Alberta, but over seven decades, she travelled across North America by car, Cuba by a Ministry limo, Grenada by foot, and Europe by plane and train, Algonquin Park by canoe, and the Pacific by sea kayak and dragon boat. She once did a two day trek - hiking up and down the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. Even her wedding in 2004 was adventurous. She married Tim Yatcak among the giant Red Woods in California when she was nearing sixty. Tim tells the story that she would hide the car keys so that he would need to join her in walking “uphill both ways” to work on their community garden plot in Burnaby. Always peripatetic, the longest Colleen lived in any one city was fifteen years. She went to public school in Calgary, high school in Toronto, university in Edmonton. Over the next decades, she had a wide range of non-traditional jobs in Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, and Burnaby.

She was a renaissance person; anything she set her mind to she could accomplish. After getting a degree in Mathematics and Science at the University of Alberta, she moved to Montreal where she soon became perfectly bilingual in English and French. On August 22, 1984, she and four other women won a Human Rights Tribunal against Canadian National Railway, citing discrimination against hiring women. As a result of this tribunal, CN was ordered to establish an Affirmative Action Program in hiring. Colleen subsequently obtained a diesel mechanic certificate and worked for many years in Montreal as a train mechanic. She worked the hot coke ovens as a Steelworker in Hamilton, and assembling tractors in Vancouver.

Colleen came from a family of political activists and she certainly carried on the tradition. She wrote articles for a small political weekly in both English and French, and demonstrating against the Viet Nam War, the October 1970 War Measures act, and for Native Rights. When she was just a baby, she was held in the arms of political activist and singer, Pete Seeger, as he sang a lullaby at at Calgary concert. All her life, Colleen loved a wide range of music: Blues, Jazz, Afrocuban, Classical – a range of musicians from: Miles Davis and Charlie Mingus; Phil Ochs and Joni Mitchel; Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Opera Atelier.

Colleen was always very determined. She was a perfectionist, who was always on the Honour Roll in high school and exacting in anything she set her mind to. In the 1990’s, she was exposed to dangerous chemicals in a Vancouver workplace resulting in Peripheral Neuropathy. She was told she would never have a normal life again. However, with her tremendous perseverance, she regained her health, retrained as an Information Technologist, and became an instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, in 2011, she was diagnosed with Frontal Temporal Dementia, possibly from the chemicals she had been exposed to twenty years before. Until the end, she still loved music, however. As language left Colleen, music was a source of constant joy. Her eyes would light up as she swayed to the World Music on the IPod provided by the Alzheimer Society. In May 2016, she became a resident of Fudger House, in Toronto, where she spent most of her waking time walking the halls. However, in September, she fell and broke her hip. Being confined to a wheel chair was not Colleen’s style. Colleen was no longer a woman in motion. One month later, she died.

She had been well looked after by the staff at Fudger House, who cared for her with compassion and great skill. Just two weeks before she died, she celebrated her seventieth birthday with her husband, Tim Yatcak, mother, Bea Levis, sisters Kim and Dona Levis, and family friend Cate Young. Her childhood friends, Lynn Hutchinson and Sara Sutcliffe were a great support to Colleen over the course of her illness. In August, she had spent time with her brother, Jan and nephew Cal Scott-Levis. She will be missed by all her family in Vancouver, Sean, Redonna, and Sean-Rae Levis, and friends and family from far and wide.

A Celebration of Colleen’s Life will take place: 2 PM Sunday, November 13, 2016 115 the Esplanade meeting room. For more information, please call 416-767-8296 Memories of Colleen may be shared by emailing: kelevis@gmail.com

Memories

Colleen Sharon Levis

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Diana Koyanagi

January 24, 2017

Colleen and I worked together at BCIT. She shared stores about her life, and family. I'll always remember Colleen's enthusiasm for learning and the love of the outdoors. Rest in peace Colleen.

Carolyn Goodall

January 23, 2017

I worked with Colleen at BCIT, she was full of life and we loved her joy. You will be missed Colleen. Love and Light Carolyn

November 30, 2016

she left a legacy for women and workers alike. I remember her well during my youth when I travelled to Toronto in the 60's and wish I had known she moved to Vancouver where I have been living all these years.
Diane Courneyeur

Nicola Joseph

November 13, 2016

Colleen was such a compassionate woman and had such a nurturing quality with animals. I remember her lovely smile and how comfortable she made people feel.

John Riddell

November 11, 2016

Colleen was an inspiration and teacher to me and a wide range of socialist activists. She was a sparkling presence, able to present contentious ideas effectively while linking up with everyone in a fraternal spirit. It is very sad to hear that she is no longer with us. Her great contribution lives on among all of us whom she influenced.

Katie Curtin

November 10, 2016

I was very saddened to hear about Colleen's death. I first met her in the early 70's through our participation in the Young Socialists and League for Socialist Action. Later I worked alongside her in the CN yards in Pointe St Charles as apprentice machinists. She was a natural leader, and always full of energy, enthusiasm, and determination. She was a warm, caring person who I remember always having a big smile. My condolences to her family and friends.

Suzanne Chabot

November 2, 2016

I was very sad to learn about Colleen's death. During the second half of the 1970s, I worked with her full time during two years as she was the organizer of the Montréal Ligue socialiste ouvrière branch and I was working on our newspaper, Libération, and on the publications of Les Éditions d'avant-garde. I remember her especially for her great intelligence, her organizing skills and the nice discussions we had on about every topic.

Brenda Dineen

October 31, 2016

I lived with Colleen in her family home near Toronto's High Park in the summer of 1966. I was just out of high school and Colleen was one year older. What a wonderful person she was to be around. Always positive, fun, determined, committed to important causes. She had a wonderful laugh and bright smile. She was a leader of an antiwar group that was growing in Toronto at the time. I have a special place in my heart for Colleen. She was a shining light in this world and will certainly be missed. I send my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.
Brenda Dineen, Vancouver

October 30, 2016

I was very saddened to hear of Colleen's death. She was one the people that had a great influence on me politically in 1973 when I joined the Jeunes socialistes and soon after the Ligue socialiste ouvrière/League for Socialist Action. She was a leader of the branch then in Montreal and also editor of Libération the French language socialist newspaper.
She was such a great example of dynamism and was a leader to follow in different areas of work that we were involved in whether it be in the fight to defend women's rights to abortion and the defense of Dr. Henry Morgentaler or supporting worker's struggles and the movement for the Québécois national rights. She was able to express herself perfectly in French and English.
I am not surprised to learn that she fought her disease, she was a very determined person and was always ready to surmount obstacles in her life. She will be remembered as a real model.
Marie-Claire David, Montreal

Al Cappe

October 29, 2016

I had the good fortune to work closely with Colleen in the Ligue socialiste ouvrière in Montréal in the 1970s. She led by example, by her determination, her energy and her warmth.
When Trudeau declared the War Measures Act in October 1970, the army was patrolling the streets and two members of the Ligue were arrested, Colleen and other leaders, including the Ligue's candidate for Mayor of Montréal, responded not with trepidation but with boldness, organizing a protest right in the face of the army at the Black Watch Armoury.
Colleen and I were also neighbours for a time, living in tiny $55-a-month apartments that had been servants quarters over an old horse stable turned garage in a laneway behind some fancy homes. With our companions we often celebrated the end of a day of activism with music, fine food and perhaps an alcoholic beverage -- or two.

FROM THE FAMILY