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Obituary of Lois May Barker
Lois BARKER passed away September 18, 2020 after a lifetime of community service and unrelenting advocacy for the underserved, while being a fierce, tenacious woman before it was cool. Born Lois May Knights in Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) Ontario in 1938 to Orval Knights and Catherine (Roby) Robinson, she was a natural athlete from childhood, excelling on the court, in the pool, and even on the ski jump. She attended Queen’s University in Kingston and following graduation, obtained her private pilot’s license, because why not? As Assistant Director of Water Safety Services for the Red Cross in Toronto, Lois noticed a failing in the national swimming badge system that resulted in children abandoning instruction. She redesigned the program, keeping kids in swim programs across the country, saving countless lives. This is what Lois did. She saw things that could be better and she fixed them. In 1980 Lois began her 23 year tenure as CEO of the Fort Erie YMCA. Once a small storefront organization, her ambitious vision and perseverance resulted in a state-of-the-art facility complete with daycare centre, running track, and even a waterslide. The building owed its existence to the “Lois Factor” — her dedication to the community, and her ability to convince people to open their wallets and contribute. When the facility opened, as she explained, “the building was buzzing with families and people of all ages. Watching hundreds having a great time in the pool area, we noticed two men talking while enjoying the hot tub. One was very wealthy and the other had requested a subsidized membership the day before. That night there was no difference between them. They were two dads sharing time with each other and their children. We all knew — this is what the Y is all about.” The Lois Factor, of course, extended to her home life, and her role as mother of Karen and Kim, with husband Joseph Barker. She used a bow and arrow to hang Christmas lights on an outdoor evergreen tree. She cut up her wedding dress to make Barbie clothes. She encouraged her daughters to try everything. She taught them that there were no limits on what they could achieve. She inspired them to make volunteering an essential part of their lives. With her beloved dogs by her side, she made everything fun. And she once went parachuting on a bet, because why not? As a mother, friend and employer, Lois was as tough as she was giving. She often saw more potential in others than they saw in themselves and she never gave up on helping them achieve it. She was blunt. She was fearless. She changed the face of Fort Erie. She changed the lives of many. She will be missed. As a champion of safety, Lois would not have wanted a service during a pandemic. To honour her legacy of service, donations are appreciated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.
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