OBITUARY

Cynthia Ann Swales

September 14, 1949January 20, 2021

Cynthia chose to live in two worlds. Ultimately it was always going to come to this: you can’t be in two places at once.

Part of Cynthia’s pain this past year would have been in recognising her dilemma. That given the restrictions of covid, her family just could not be with her, nor she with us.

Yet Cynthia’s deep and faithful friendships in Vancouver have enabled us a sense of presence, particularly during her final months. Our family has valued this access beyond measure.

It’s the quality of life that Cynthia undertook that proves to be her true testament. She valued family, friends, loyalty at work, and travel, yet of the people and places she’s been, her spirit remained with Aspendale.

We’ve known Cynthia as a beautiful and graceful presence. Throughout her life she’s been stunningly attractive, a dimension to our company that is enviably memorable. Russell must have been impossibly proud to stand beside her through their decades together, dressed in bathers or ballgowns. It’s the sort of experience blokes dream about.

Cynthia was a person of pragmatism. She assessed behaviours, circumstances, people, without ambient light. She was able to call it for what it was, without nuance. It’s a quality that made her a good conversationalist, informed and always entertaining company: a characteristic, to which thankfully her mild-mannered Canadian friends grew accustomed. Actually, when diagnosed with glioblastoma, the specialist warned them of a probable change in Cynthia’s social filter, that she would become disarmingly candid. ‘What’s new?’ they asked.

Cynthia was maddeningly unpunctual yet met her nemesis in Russell. He beat her hands down in reliably holding things up. Getting through the door punctually for either of them was frustratingly impossible. They inevitably arrived however, looking consummately chic, Cynthia in her exceptional sun dresses that no other woman above the age of 35 can get away with, and Russell, all handsome sophistication in light linen.

Whilst Cynthia embraced a life lived overseas, she hated change in her life. She resisted and procrastinated with decision making. She stayed put in the same house, throughout her life in Vancouver, where even the book arrangements moved not an inch in all those years. Indecision thwarted her at crucial epochs in her life. From somewhere she’d embraced a prism of self-doubt that frustrated her in directing her life, and she never shook it off.

Impressively Cynthia worked her whole life, from 18 to 69 years of age, a seriously rare phenomenon. Her substantive professional life was associated with noteworthy law firms in Vancouver. Her loyalty and capabilities led her to holding the challenging position of office manager. In both practices where she served substantive years, she admired the astute intelligence and integrity of her employers very much. Names such as Rocke and Bruce became synonymous with her workplace narratives. Interesting legal quandaries, office personalities and her self-deprecating participation therein, made for compelling listening each year.

No doubt her employers’ mutual frustration with Cynthia was in getting her back from annual vacation, on time and coherent. Her real focus was to book the last return flight, to arrive on the very day of work. No exaggeration - no sleep. She’d fly into Vancouver early morning, shower, change, and hit the office, relying on her suntan to overshadow fading energies. No doubt she looked so fabulous, exuding holiday mode, that consequent inefficiencies were tolerated. Every bit of Bruce’s reputed patience was relied upon, and needed. Self interest was again to the fore when Cynthia was required to hire her annual replacement at work. There were two criteria: heroic maturity of years, and, demonstrable ineptitude. Cynthia never knowingly risked losing her valued employment.

Aged three score and ten, with sombre commitment, she single-handedly packed up and sold off all there was, from her final office. She had but one year of retirement, at the end of it all.

In returning to Australia every year Cynthia reliably travelled throughout Asia, though it was the culture of Fiji which she loved and to which she repeatedly returned. The warmth and settings of the Pacific island cultures, captured her spirit: sea, sand, and sun were truely Cynthia’s life mantra. Indeed, to have lived part of each year somehow between Fiji, Vancouver and Melbourne I think would have been her preferred combination of residences. She has now been denied realising such possibilities.

The one thing that I think hurt in Cynthia’s expatriate heart, was her distance from Pearl, our mother. They loved one another most truely. In choosing to live in Canada, she forfeited Pearl’s ready company. Cynthia returned like a homing pigeon every year at Christmas to be embraced by her wider family, but it was to be with Pearl that was core to her return.

Our mother never, ever intruded upon Cynthia’s choice. Pearl was remarkably stoic in her selfless perspective on life. She enabled Cynthia to lead a free, independent life, the very thing parents hope to encourage in their children. The privilege of choice inevitably carries its inherent burdens and living away from Pearl, was Cynthia’s heartache.

Our mother’s sister, Constance, was the other compelling character in Cynthia’s upbringing. The first thing Cynthia did upon arrival home was to go five doors down to see Con who represented everything valuable within family: expansive generosity, ready humour and common, good sense. She ensured Cynthia’s Christmas holidays were consistently celebratory, well populated and well-watered. As one of my cousins observed: ‘Christmas started with Cynthia’s arrival’. Con’s place hosted so many celebrations, which invariably were on the beach. Cynthia adored Con for the qualities she reliably radiated, and sought daily to be in her company when here.

Of our immediate family, there was just Cynthia, Amber and I. Now we’re down by one... We no longer have the beauty of Cynthia in our presence.

I’ve lost those easy, mundane, yet insightful conversations that sisters expect to enjoy way into blithering, old age. I’ve lost afternoon teas where there’s a paring back, an enjoyment of late-in-life observations, with easy laughter responding to gene-generated wit. Utterly invaluable conversations and graceful, kind company are now denied me.

Amber has lost her loving aunt who celebrated every milestone by card or call, and witnessed each year’s natural growth. Amber has just started her adult life and will be one wingman down as she explores her future.

This little family’s loss, is acute.

There are potencies that I’ve learned during this protracted, and distant, experience of saying goodbye to Cynthia. The devotion of Russell in championing Cynthia’s care through every stage of this insidious affliction, has been exceptional. His patient strength and nurturing support have been manifest. Russell has born witness each day to his unwavering love and commitment to Cynthia.

I now understand true, deep friendship. It looks like Dorothy and Barb. It’s a maturity of friendship that protects you at your most vulnerable, when indeed you’re not yourself. It sweeps around the edges so that the core threads to your life, are not left to unravel. It’s the warm hand, when you are alone. Dorothy and Barb’s inexhaustible care for Cynthia, has ensured that our family and her friends in Australia, have not been denied connection with her, which covid restrictions would otherwise have ensured.

We value and admire the integrity that Russell, Dorothy and Barb exemplify, without which Amber and I would be utterly bereft these past months. A remarkable thing with covid, is that it has provided a dimension by which good people absolutely shine.

Part of Cynthia will always be at Aspendale beach, where four succeeding generations of our family have listened to the waves, been transfixed by clear mornings that illuminate an idyllic sea, and where we have simply valued the enduring continuity of it all...

Kathryn Swales

For those of you who were not aware, Cynthia passed away peacefully the morning of January 20, 2021 at Lions Gate Hospital after a one-year battle with brain cancer. Cynthia was born on September 14, 1949 in East Melbourne, Australia to Pearl and Alfred Swales. She moved to Vancouver in late 1974 where she worked in various law firms through to her retirement at the end of 2018. She developed a thriving network of friends in Vancouver who loved her deeply and became her Canadian family. We always worried she might decide not to return from her annual Australian visit with her extended family she loved so much. We have come to know and love Cynthia’s family and share their loss. Cynthia is survived by her devoted husband Russell Schluter, her sister Kathryn Swales and her niece Amber Pearl Swales.

Dorothy Byrne

Services

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Memories

Cynthia Ann Swales

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Russell Schluter

February 9, 2021

Cynthia Ann Swales
My love, my joy, my best friend for our last 24 years
My mind, my heart, my soul ,my body cannot stop crying now that we no longer share our lives on Earth but even though I do not have a church I love my Heavenky Father, my God through Jesus Christ my Saviour and God has assured me you are safe and loved with Him because of your loving nature . I will miss your human presence but I feel your Spirit is safe with God.
I met Cynthia at a singles pot luck dinner dance at the Vancouver Rowing Club in 1996 and she was sitting opposite me at dinner. She attended with another man who wanted her to leave with him to go somewhere else but Cynthia thankfully wanted to stay so he left alone. She rolled her eyes when I was asked by someone about my past relationship and I gave them every last detail. We danced and as we were leaving I asked to see her again and she consented thankyou God and our relationship cemented over the next year and when she told me about all her travels I asked if I could go with her the following year and our relationship gradually grew stronger. I had not been back to Australia since 1974 having been raised in Queensland.
We did take care of all the essential renovations on her house and loved working together in her garden.
Life will never be the same Cynthia my love, my friend, my joy and though I can never forget you your memory will always strengthen me.
Thankyou Cynthia my greatest friend and love.

Dianne Lynch

February 9, 2021

Cynthia
At first I knew Cynthia as my friend Kath Swales’ sister, catching up with her news each summer ... and there were occasions when that news was quite juicy, when everyone was waiting a bit breathless for the next witty instalment.
Then one day in 1999 I took a working holiday in the USA. Kath said that I must visit Cynthia in Vancouver, which seemed way too much of an imposition but Cynthia got in touch insisting that I come, that she loved visitors. Cynthia certainly made me feel that this was so when I turned up at a ferry terminal from Vancouver Island. She was simply great, even more warm and vibrant than I remembered and nothing was too much trouble.
There has been another stay over since then with my partner Max, and that time Russell was put at our disposal every day, with strict instructions on how to look after us properly. God forbid if Russell should only be half listening or miss a detail! However, Cynthia could be teased about this slave driving and took the ribbing with her usual good humour.
Of course they have been visiting us regularly since, even squeezing us in for a short stay. Little did we think that the 2020 summer would be the last.
In our minds they will always be perpetually in summer where they are selfless, generous, warm and funny. Cynthia, despite her languorous drawl, could be sharp witted, dry and to the point. These are all qualities that I admire although sadly my own attempts at expressing them are far more likely to offend! However it is Cynthia’s generosity of spirit that I will miss most. It seemed limitless. And that is what Cynthia had in common with Russell. Our thoughts are with you Russell.

Adrienne Standerwick

February 4, 2021

Beautiful Cynthia......

The Christmas before Con (mother to Dianne, Veronica, Adrienne and Antoinette) passed away two years ago, Cynthia stayed with Con and I. Cynthia of course, was her delightful, patient self, and gave much of her time to Con. It was so fortuitous that she was staying with us. She would sit on the end of Con's bed and relate her year in Vancouver, of work, friends, her glorious garden and the scenic places and events she and Russell had experienced. Con had always held a special place in her heart for Cynthia and so looked forward to her visits. Her vibrancy and carefree demise certainly set the scene for that holiday feeling of beach, sun and celebration. Christmas became real once she arrived.

I can still see her emerging from the water, goggles and snorkel in hand, her skin glowing the colour of caramel. This I am sure, is a vision that she reflected upon during the year in Vancouver, in anticipation of her next annual visit.

Love to you Cyndie for giving me memories of your smiles and great humour. Of your company spending lazy days on the beach, the mammoth task of setting the table at Christmas, and your delicious potato salad.
You had so much still to enjoy......

Malinda Parker

February 3, 2021

I was lucky enough to have been Cynthia's neighbour for over 10 years on Windridge Drive. Her lovely extensive garden, her fierce protection of the local black bears that wandered through our yards, her tolerance of our wayward cat, her adopting of the local stray cat, her sharing of garden and plants and her knowledge to myself a new homeowner was always overly generous and very entertaining. Looking after her house while she was on her yearly travels was the least I could do, and was always rewarded with an excellent bottle of well selected wine :)
I am deeply saddened to hear of her passing, and the world is less one of the good souls. Gone but never forgotten. Thank you Cynthia for the laughs and being an excellent friend and neighbour.

Livio Travels

February 3, 2021

Then one day, as we all know, Russell arrived. Dear wonderful, sweet, calm, steady, loving Russell. Smitten like an evergreen tree covered in 2 feet of fresh snow. Utterly helpless to her charms. Lucky fellow.

Cynthia and Russell have been the dearest of friends. Rarely missing a good BBQ with our gang. Always Russell sent off to find parking and Cynthia in her party dress lovingly rolling her eyes. Russell always the loving attentive mate.

Russell and Cynthia seemed to share so much love. They were the peaceful couple so in tune. So easy going and comfortable. Such inspiration.

They travelled and had adventures and oh so many beach days. Seriously, who flys to L.A. for the weekend just because there is a great beach right near LAX. Especially when their social calendar is so full of parties with the Wreck beach gang after a day of sunshine at Wreck.

We could always count on Cynthia and Russel for any good gathering. There are endless memories of meals, wine, good conversation. Cynthia gorgeously sun kissed and oh so feminine in those colourful dresses that only she could pull off so gracefully.

So much style, so much warmth and always sincere curiosity and careing as to how YOU were in every conversation. Cynthia lit up every room she entered. She made everyone ever so comfortable. That sincere smile never wavered. She was a true friend. Thank You for being you Cynth. We have been blessed by your friendship. We will miss you sun goddess.

Livio Travels

February 3, 2021

One day the island property came into our lives, along with a little motorboat. The summer was spent on our new beach, with the sun goddess herself not missing a moment of those rays.

One late summer day as the sun set behind the trees, she spots a sliver of last sunlight on the rocks across the way. Into the boat and we chased over to the spot. Out came the blanket and not a beat was skipped. Looking up from her sunny blanket, she uttered the fateful "you should build your cabin here." Thirty years later, on that spot, the cabin catches the last rays of the sun. Thank you Cynth.

The years rolled along bringing change to us. Cynthia became the dancing queen out on the town enjoying herself. One side bar of those fun days was her 2 days on the stand as the star witness in the criminal purjury trial. She was stoic and daring, unafraid to tell the truth. We were all so very proud of her.

Cynthia was that special type of friend that even if you did not speak in a year, the next conversation would pick up right where you left it.

That was Cynthia - a friend is a friend. And with that came some wonderfully lovely evenings of rotating dinners with Carolyn and I. We would be invited over for dinners on the back deck, whereby Cynth would show us her amazing garden and tell the latest story of the bear in the trees eating the apples.

And the house, oh that house. I had to smile when someone wrote of the big Kitchen renovation plans. I recall those myself, that was 1987. But big plans cannot be rushed. In all fairness new appliances arrived and Cynth whipped up amazing dinner party meals on that new stove. As well, fresh paint, new light fixtures and new pillows. If only that darn wall would move, but where to put the fridge! I think that was the bottleneck on those plans. It's the fridges fault.

Livio Travels

February 3, 2021

It was October 1987 at Steve's Band dance. That smile, that accent, that confident ease of herself. Who is this woman. A walk and a talk and next thing I know I have been recruited to house sit while she flew off to Australia. So there I am in her fairy tale cottage feeding the cat, wondering, was it me or was it my free time to feed the cat. hmm.
And that's how it began.

She was unlike anyone I had known. Everything I thought I knew about relationships was out the window. There was so much new to learn. First off, a girl can never have enough shoes. Secondly a hug can soothe every problem.

From Cynth I learned the unconditional careing for your mate. If you were there, you were fully there, there is no half way. No doubts necessary. And don't be shy about showing it. She wasn't. She was supportive, quick to praise, and didn't mince words when necessary. One of her many gifts was her clear communication. Always the message was clear and simple.. I always knew where I stood. Oh I had so much to learn about the Aussie way.

She taught me a relationship can be easy. She taught me I can believe in myself. She taught me to believe in my partner. She taught me kindness and patience are the heart of a relationship. She taught me the value of that relationship. I am forever grateful.

She had an easy going disarming charm that people picked up on immediately. She could chat with anyone. She was a great listener. Always calm, always kind. She could look you quietly in the eyes and you opened up to her, spilling the beans so voluntarily. Conversation flowed so comfortably with her.

A few years flowed gently. There were weekly cakes from the bakery school near her office and the lunch hour visits to "woodwards" Ladies Shoes floor. Those fabulous legs needed those fabulous shoes The closet kept filling up and we ate cake, and drank the wine. There was always news to share of Pearl and Katherine and Amber.

Glenda Winsen

February 2, 2021

We are devastated at the news as Cynthia was always such a vibrant gal! We first met her in Columbus, Ohio, where her former husband was undertaking a PhD and my husband was in the same programme. She always seemed so exotic to us. We became firm friends probably, in part, because we were all Aussies. We kept in touch when they moved to Vancouver and we moved to San Francisco when both our husbands became academics. We were saddened when they parted company but so happy for Cynthia when she found Russell. We kept in touch, catching up every time we were lucky enough to travel to Whistler; our daughter stayed with her twice and has very fond memories of her – and Russell, of course. What a lovely guy. She will always be in our hearts….

Ulrike Radermacher-Vining

February 2, 2021

To Russell,
My heart felt condolences go out to you. My memory of Cynthia is always tied with you. I wish you strength and peace for your journey ahead.

Ulrike Radermacher-Vining

February 2, 2021

Not fair, not fair, is all I can think. (I know, LIFE'S NOT FAIR, everyone's mother would reply). Cynthia was too nice, too beautiful, young, dignified, kind, fun, glamorous, too NICE.
A year is a long time to live through with such a diagnosis, yet such a short time for those of us who are a bit on the outer periphery. It is a shock, followed by deep sorrow. I am now telling myself never to put off a visit, a call.

Cynthia became one of my first friends in Vancouver and made me feel very welcome. Over the years, we talked, hiked. I watched her scuba diving, skiing, hosting fabulous dinners and matter of factly organizing elaborate thematic events. Early on, at one Rose Bowl party, I admired her ability to blend North American culture with decided Australian flair: she had combined a bold, sexy, gorgeous, rose patterned sun dress with a battered baking bowl held onto her head by a piece of string.

Aidan and I were so lucky when Cynthia introduced us to Pearl by welcoming us with kids and caboodle on her beach in Melbourne. We fondly remember the large family dinner at Con's house.
Our condolences go to Katherine, Amber and all the cousins - we loved her, will miss her terribly, and always remember.

FROM THE FAMILY