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C.M., B.A., L.L.D. (Hon), D.S.Litt. (Hon)

Nona Mary Macdonald Heaslip (b. November 20, 1930) died peacefully after a brief illness at Toronto Western Hospital on March 6, 2024. Adored wife of the late William Arthurs Heaslip, C.M., she was predeceased by her brothers, Alan and Malcolm, Malcolm’s wife, Nancy, and nephew, Bradford. Babu, as she was known to the Macdonalds, is survived by her sister-in-law Joyce, and will be dearly missed by her nieces and nephews, Nona Louise, Doris (Michael Van Buer), Alan, Ronald (Loralee Delbrouck), Carol, and great-nephews, Lincoln and Davis. She is also remembered as the fun-loving matriarch of the Heaslip clan by niece Brenda Radford, and her children, Victoria (Matt Couto), Devin, Vanessa, and Spencer, and numerous other relatives. Nona was born in Saskatoon to Dr. Ronald Hugh and Nona (nee Hutcheson). She graduated from City Park High School and attended St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. Upon completing her English degree, Nona began a career in print journalism at The StarPhoenix in her hometown, The Province in Vancouver, and United Press International in Montreal. Nona moved into radio and television production at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before relocating to New York. There she produced media programming for the United Nations and eventually became the Television-Radio Publicity Director for Time Incorporated. Always up for a new challenge, Nona also worked in the United Kingdom, which allowed her to keep in touch with relatives there and to feed her travel bug by traversing Europe on holidays. In the mid 1970’s, Nona returned to Canada to work in public relations at Ontario Place and then at the University of Toronto, where she was the first PR Manager. She advised three university presidents and modernized U. of T.’s external relations portfolio. To this day, prospective students and guests may start their campus tours, which she established, from the Nona Macdonald Visitors Centre. Her work was recognized with two awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Nona was active in the community as President of the John Simcoe Historical Association, the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, and the Empire Club of Canada. Her professional expertise and love of theatre made her a valued member of many boards including The Shaw Festival and Asolo Repertory Theatre (Sarasota, Florida). She was also a driving force behind the formation of the Theatre Museum of Canada. Nona and her husband Bill created The William and Nona Heaslip Foundation, which funds undergraduate Heaslip Scholars in ten universities across Canada as well as supporting many other charitable organizations in the education, arts, and health sectors. Nona’s commitment to giving back was recognized by three universities, which awarded her honorary degrees (U. of PEI, St. Michael’s and Trinity College, U. of T.). She was named to the Order of Canada in 2021 and was thrilled to travel to Ottawa two years later to receive her award. Nona will be deeply missed by her wide circle of friends and by an even wider community of artists, medical practitioners, and students who have benefited from her generosity. Nona’s greatest joy was connecting with people; she loved nothing better than gathering to share stories and laughter. She was a member of several clubs where she enjoyed the social life and stayed active as long as possible playing tennis, golf, and swimming. Nona hosted many parties in her lovely home and beautiful garden, often including live music, singing (especially Christmas carols), and dancing. Nona will be especially missed by her longtime housekeeper and party facilitator, Carmelita Alcala. The family is grateful to the compassionate caregivers who made Nona’s last two years much more comfortable and to the excellent staff at Toronto Western Hospital. The visitation will be held from 2-4 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at the Mount Pleasant Funeral Centre, 375 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto. A joyous celebration of life will follow in the spring. It will be a party! In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to honour Nona’s generosity by donating to the charity of their choice. For online condolences, please visit http://www.etouch.ca

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