Sheila McWilliams-you didn’t say no!
You didn’t say ‘no’ to Sheila McWilliams because she was a magnet for good things. You’d want to share her quiet enthusiasm… Val Cramp, Lori Catteau, Judi Shields, and Sheila’s husband Norm are just a few people who described this determined woman who took her energy into so many areas of need.
When Sheila died in Barrie on June 20, several communities lost their champion. She knew she was going, and yet a month before bile duct cancer took her life, Sheila was still volunteering in the kitchen at Hospice House, helping other families help their loved ones on their final journey. And she wasn’t talking about herself, either. She was cooking for others!
Surprising places inspired Sheila, always people less fortunate. With Val and husbands and friends from their winter RV park in Texas, Sheila raised money and bought books and helped a Mexican school, mired in poverty, get its own library. She made it her cause; her enthusiasm made people want to help. Youngsters at Nuevo Progreso now have their first pleasure reading.
A retired teacher, along with many retired teachers in Llano Lake RV Park by the Rio Grande River, Sheila was part of a community who enjoyed retirement by continuing to give to others. Husband Norm says she was not the kind of woman who could see a need and walk past.
“She organized an awful lot of people to help. She didn’t want to be the person at the top,” recalls Norm as he chuckles over the numbers of projects that Sheila lured him into. Habitat for Humanity, Food Bank, Out of the Cold, Blood Services, Hospice, Central United Church … they all benefitted from Sheila McWilliams commitment to do good on the planet.
Perhaps Sheila’s greatest joy was her grandchildren. In their 26 years of marriage, Norm and Sheila’s children all produced children and it was a great thrill to have them come together for weeks in the summer. The kids would each choose a meal entirely and Sheila would help them prepare and present it as a surprise for everyone.
She kept a special book and each time they came they’d draw the outline of their hand and they’d write a story about what they did while visiting that week. The book was started 20 years ago. The last entry is on June 18, two days before she passed away.
Lori talks with great enthusiasm about her Mom as a Mom. “She loved to cook and entertain; she has a binder where she’d record dinner date, guests, what she served, people’s reaction… she didn’t want to serve the same thing twice. Her dinner themes were famous.
“When I knew her death was coming, I got her to teach me how to bake an apple pie. My generation doesn’t know how to make pies, unless they’re in a frozen shell. She always made a pie for my husband’s birthday. This year, through Mom, I made his birthday apple pie,” says Lori.
Sheila had many enthusiastic communities… teaching friends from Guelph, Barrie friends from retirement, Texas friends from the winters. As these Sheila-people from all of her interests, live with the hole that her going has caused, they also are aware that Sheila wouldn’t be very happy with the mourning. She’d expect them to get out and raise funds for books, do a birding trip, put in a few hours in a volunteer capacity, cook something delicious, hug a child.
A subtle, remarkably generous, person, focussed on those without on the outside. Sheila? Thanks!