A celebration of the life of Dawn McCourt

Everyone who knew my mom knew that she was … the type of person that makes an impact on people, things and places.  As my cousin Nick wrote to mom: “Everywhere you go, people end up loving you.  That’s one heck of a personality you have.  Anyone who knows you is lucky to have met you.”

Since mom’s diagnosis and passing I have heard from so many people of what an honest, down to earth, genuine and caring person mom was. She was warm, sweet and loyal. Mom was an artisan with many crafts. I grew up knowing her to be a seamstress, as we grew older her interests expanded to include painting and more. She was a night owl who spent many an hour after the rest of us were in bed working on her art. Of course, when else could she get a few minutes to herself?

She would never call herself a great cook, although most of us would argue otherwise. Most of her “concoctions”, as she called them, were very tasty! However, she was once awarded a shellacked cold mini pizza for all of the wonderful meals provided by mom when dad and his co-worker arrived home late for dinner and were often presented with cold pizza.

Mom especially never claimed to be a baker. As many know, mom joked about making burnt offerings. Once when asked to provide for a community event she even cut the charcoal bottoms off of her biscuits and sent just the tops because there was no time to bake more! Perhaps they were destined for a Seinfeld episode. In our house we joked that we knew cookies were made by mom, by turning them over. And mom often claimed her cookies were intended for dunking in tea!

Mom made friends everywhere, and touched people in ways that only she could. Even as cancer overcame Mom’s body her beautiful, radiant spirit shone through. She was someone who found the good in every person and situation. She lived with no regrets, and appreciated everything her life had provided her. After being diagnosed and learning her prognosis, mom told us that she had lived a great life, that she is happy with everything – she had no “bucket list”, so to speak. That which she had wished for, had already come to be.

Always living up to her name, Mom was a vibrant life force with a sunny smile. We will always remember her in every new dawn, however our family all know that mom could count on her fingers the number of times she actually woke early enough to see the sunrise! Sunsets were more her thing.

Mom loved to laugh, her laugh was infectious, she laughed hard and she laughed well. She brought the healing of laughter to those around her. When mom and her friends got together it was not unusual to find them in tears, laughing so hard they could barely catch their breathe.

Mom was born in Clinton, ON in 1952. When mom & dad were teens both of their airforce families lived in Whitehorse. Mom was 14 and her best friend was the sister of dad’s best friend, Jerry. Mom had such a crush on dad that she and Janice went banging on windows while my then 16-year-old father babysat! Both families moved on to new postings and after dad joined the R.C.M.P. he was stationed in Halifax. Jerry gave him Uncle Alan’s number to catch up with the Smith family who then lived in Dartmouth. The rest is history, or so I’ve been told. However I’ve since learned a little more about how Mom became a “mountie’s wife”.

When dad was being transferred again he decided he couldn’t let mom get away. After just two short months of dating dad proposed to my then eighteen-year-old mother. The midnight mass on Christmas Eve had finished and he proposed in the pouring rain in the church parking lot of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Mom always called our family a bunch of gypsies. Two air force brats turned Mountie family, moving from place to place she always saw her life as an adventure. How many other careers paid you to see the countryside and learn so much about your nation along the way?

She loved to travel, often with family and friends joining her. Family road trips crossing the country in a van & camper or trailer, vacations to far away places likeHawaiion an anniversary, Japan to see my brother’s home, or painting workshops with friends.

Ever the diplomat, Mom chose her words carefully, yet wished to always express her thoughts, feelings and opinions to those around her. Just ask Dana’s high school boyfriends about mom’s hotseat! I assure you the only friend of mine who ever sat there did so because of his connection with my little sister’s boyfriend! 😉 Mom never wanted to use any offensive language, and had her own words to make certain references like: “tooting” and “pain in the derriere”. But we’ll always cherish memories of her greeting us with her smile and a “hi, sweet girl!”

Even when singing to her grandchildren she tried to keep things equal. My Nanny sang a song to us as babies called Dolly Dimples, each verse with a different nickname for her beloved grandchild. Mom sung the Dolly Dimples verse to Nanny’s little girl, and Lizzy Lucy to Grampy’s.

Nanny always had time for her girlies, providing her ever-flowing encouragement, just as she did for everyone she came to know. She loved having her grandchildren around her, and especially having time with them on their own. Nanny & Grampy took Breanna & Payten camping, cared for them when I needed support of my own and had an annual routine of taking them to celebrate Canada Day at the Balcam Centre. She was always so anxious to see her girls upon returning from Florida after a long winter away.

Mom was always the communicator in the family and every year she wrote a long newsy “Holiday letter” (the Christmas letter, rarely did make it into the mail on time). She often spoke for both she and dad, for which dad was always so grateful. Mom would occasionally feign the need to use the washroom just as the phone would ring at home in order to force dad to pick up and talk once in a while.

Always very determined, mom has shared with us many times, stories about her 50 mile walk in Whitehorse when she was the first girl in at 13, after a grueling walk in her army boots! Her determination to live and love life shone through even during her final days. Just as in good health mom, found joy in the simple things of companionship, love, laughter, sunrises and sunsets, and the incredible surroundings of the home she and Dad created on MacLeod’s Cove.

Mom put aside her personal comfort to provide for the needs of everyone she cared about. Even while she was sick recently she dropped everything to attend to me when a migraine hit suddenly. When I called mom we could have a twenty minute conversation (and how often was it ever just a twenty minute conversation?) and I might not get the chance to ask a single question about her – when I did, she’d tell me about dad.

When mom walked in the door of our place she never failed to notice the changes that made our new house more like home. Mom always made me feel special, loved and good. Good at what I did, good at parenting my children, good at being her daughter. My mother taught me so much about living a real, genuine life. Enjoying and appreciating what I have, and that I always had her undieing love and support. She taught me to cherish my family first and foremost.

On behalf of mom and the rest of my family I want to thank the Health unit at the Sheet Harbour hospital for their wonderful support, as well as the community of Port Dufferin and Sheet Harbour who have provided countless meals, words of support and encouragement and more during a very difficult period. The depth with which Mom has touched so many lives is evident in the number of those present today, in the cards, emails and supportive gestures offered by so many. She was loved and respected by so many more than could have ever been imagined.

About Trish

family legacy curator, social justice advocate, blogger, amateur photographer, reader, cyclist, runner & swimmer, mom of two

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Ollie Douma
Ollie Douma
12 years ago

The words you have written here are so true of the woman I knew and loved and although I never met you when I lived in Moser River I heard so many wonderful stories about all of you from your mom. She loved each of you, her grandchildren and your dad so much. There hasn’t been a day go by since I heard of her passing that I haven’t thought of her. Since leaving NS to come back to Ontario I think often of my special friends there. I have a wall in my living room I call my Nova Scotia wall and there is a photo of your mom there that I cherish very much. 
When my husband Ed and I had our car accident the day of our Red Hat Christmas party at Donna Pye’s house and I was late getting there your mom was the first to come and give me a huge hug when I arrived and suggested that for the meal Ed was an honourary Red Hatter and had to sit and eat with everyone. Your mom was a very dear friend of mine and both Ed and I thought the world of both her and your dad and she will always have a special place in my heart forever more…..Cherish all your memories of her as I will. When we come to NS to visit next time I know your dad will be on the top of the list of people we will visit……….Ollie Douma Port Rowan Ontario ( but my heart will always be in NS with my many wonderful friends there)

12 years ago
Reply to  Ollie Douma

Thank you Ollie. I really appreciate your note.


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11 years ago

Thank you Trish for posting this. As you know I was unable to attend your Mom’s funeral but was there for the memorial. You captured your Mom’s personality to a T. Miss her. Jill