Marion Fenwick was a small woman, but she had a big presence.
“She was always there, pretty much from the day we were born,” said Jennifer Lougheed, Fenwick’s niece. “All of the photos we have, it’s the kids playing and there’s Aunty Marion in the back sitting on a chair and just loving it. That’s, I guess, how I kind of think of her. She was a little fixture in the back.”
Fenwick died in hospital of complications due to injuries she sustained when someone on a bicycle knocked her over and stole her purse on Sept. 14 in Collingwood. She was walking on Market Lane at the time.
Fenwick was a healthy senior woman, still living on her own independently in the same Collingwood apartment building she retired to in 1992.
Fenwick never married. She spent her career working at the Toronto Credit Bureau, now called Equifax. She retired about a year early on banked sick days, which meant she collected a full year’s salary after retiring.
Fenwick was about four-foot-10 at her tallest, according to Lougheed, but at 86 years old, she had shrunk to under four feet.
“For every generation, she was the bar that was set — when you were taller than Aunt Marion, you were grown up,” said Lougheed, recalling her nephews celebrating the day they could see over her head.
Lougheed’s six-year-old grandson was nearly there before Fenwick died.
Lougheed and her two sisters, Janet and Valerie, were close to their aunt.
In the summers, Janet and Jennifer would take a bus from Collingwood to Toronto where they would spend the last week of summer with their Aunty Marion.
“She would take us to Centre Island, and I got to see the Osmonds I can’t tell you how many times at the CNE,” said Lougheed.
The rest of the year, Fenwick would travel by bus from Toronto to Collingwood every weekend to spend Saturday and Sunday with her family at their farm in Singhampton, which is about 20 kilometres south of Collingwood.
When she was younger, Fenwick was a regular bowler, and she liked embroidery, but her true hobby and passion was spending time with her nieces and their kids.
“Anytime we got together for anything, Aunt Marion was always there,” said Lougheed. “If she didn’t go on family holidays with us, my parents went on holiday and we’d be home with Aunt Marion … You could count on her. Aunt Marion was always just a presence in our lives for as long as I can remember.”
Fenwick never learned to drive. She used public transit while she worked in Toronto and once she retired to Collingwood, she walked where she needed to go.
She was “fiercely independent,” said Lougheed.
Fenwick was also a “voracious reader” and regularly checked out books from the Collingwood Public Library. Lougheed said she remembers as a child seeing her aunt reading Harlequin romance novels.
She had hearing aids and she carried a small cane, but Lougheed said it was more of a safety blanket than a necessity.
“In typical 86-year-old single-lady fashion, she had a cat,” said Lougheed. “The cat’s name was Tiny, but he wasn’t. He was as big as she was.”
When Fenwick was in the hospital, Lougheed said she was positive and “OK” until a doctor told her she needed surgery and would require rehabilitation and she might not be able to return home and live independently.
“She started to cry,” said Lougheed.
And while her aunt may have valued her independence, she loved the company of her nieces, and that’s why they made sure she wasn’t ever alone in the hospital.
“Her last words to me were ‘I’m fine',” said Lougheed. “She was always fine.”
She died on Sept. 20 at 5 a.m. with her niece, Valerie, by her side.
Police have arrested and charged 30-year-old Caleb Burgler with second-degree murder in relation to Fenwick’s death. None of the allegations against Burgler have been proven in court.
“We felt relief he was caught,” said Lougheed. “We have family and friends who walk around here every day, and they were afraid to leave their homes. It affected everybody. I think it was a relief we knew, at least not by him, it wasn’t going to happen again.”
Lougheed said she’s fortunate to have a very close family — her sisters she considers her best friends.
“We’ve always had each other and we always will,” she said.
On Sunday, Sept. 29, members of the community organized a vigil on Market Lane, where they left flowers and candles on the corner in memory of Marion Fenwick.
Her funeral took place today at All Saints' Anglican Church Hall in Collingwood.
“Talking about her is easy,” said Lougheed. “Sure, our hearts are broken. But to not talk about her, that would do her a disservice. She’ll always be part of the conversation.”