A Tribute to Sandra Gayle Tisdall (“Gayle”)
“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” -Maya Angelou
Passed away on Saturday, February 3, 2024, at the age of 80 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Gayle is survived by her loving husband of 55 years, Robert (Bob) Tisdall. She was an extraordinary mother to Cindy (Lee) Tisdall-McPhee and Jeff (Angela); and a much-loved grandmother to Aisha and Ezra Tisdall-McPhee and Noah and Hana Tisdall. Gayle was born in Owen Sound, Ontario on July 9, 1943, the third youngest of seven children raised by her parents, Sidney and Rachel Cavell. She remained very close to her extended family throughout her life, and was immensely proud of Bill Cavell, Joan Simmons, Phyllis Paterson, Marjorie Ireland, as well as her surviving siblings, Kaye Cavell, and Alan (Jacqueline). Equally, she was a passionate supporter of her many nieces and nephews taking great interest in their pursuits and those of their children. Gayle is lovingly remembered by many other relatives and friends.
Growing up on a farm as part of a family that put seven children through university, Gayle exhibited a conscientious work ethic that set her apart. As a Latin and French language teacher her lesson planning was both methodical and deeply creative, as she worked long into evenings striving to create content that engaged and inspired her students. Gayle’s love of language and arts extended to reading – a reliable member of “many a book club”, and a frequent contributor and beneficiary to informal family reading lists. In university, Gayle would take in poetry readings by Leonard Cohen, and explored yoga, wellness and Eastern philosophies long before it became fashionable. Later, she was Curator of the St. Joseph Island Museum. Gayle followed politics closely throughout her life, in more recent times with some dismay. Conversationally, she was a joy to speak to – always supportive, yet ready to drop a wry observation or inject clever wit when least expected.
In 1975, Gayle moved to St. Joseph Island and lived on Twin Lakes for 48-years. To say that she loved her natural surroundings would be a profound understatement. From family cross-country ski parties and maple syrup making, to beach barbeques and walks in the woods, Twin Lakes was the centre of family life for many years. Gayle passionately embraced the stillness of the water, the reflection of the opposite shore, visiting loons, fall colours, Blue Jays in winter and even rascally red squirrels. Gayle was fond of saying she “communed with nature” or was “meditating on snowflakes”. Invariably phone calls with Gayle started with a recounting of the natural world unfolding outside her living room window, and it charmed all those who knew her well.
In later life, Gayle was sometimes prone to casting herself as a reluctant adventurer, seeking counsel from her sisters as to the wisdom (or viability) of visiting the next distant land her adult children were advocating for. The reality is this adventurous spirit was always there. While completing her under-graduate degree at the University of Waterloo, she worked summers in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick. Gayle once hitchhiked with friends from Lake Louis to Vancouver. Her first teaching assignment was in Sioux Lockout, and she gamely agreed to settle with her husband Bob in Sault Ste Marie in 1968. There was a trip to Paris, too many West Coast excursions to count and frequent visits to Japan, including long stays in support of the arrival of both of her daughter’s children. From Beijing to Bali, Bangkok, Mexico, Cuba, Dubai and multiple winters in Singapore – Gayle saw a lot of the world. No doubt however, she was always happy to return home to the peace and tranquility of Twin Lakes.
Of course, adventure also found her much closer to home – most often in the form of boating on the North Channel. In this respect, Gayle’s reaction to her nautical experiences ranged from blissful indulgence in what became some of her most favourite family memories, to moments best remembered by the varying levels of concern they triggered. Such was the nature of “boating with Bob” – as we all came to understand, seas are not always placid.
Gayle had a natural eye for design. Unconstrained by big brands or established convention, she wove an aesthetic all her own. The interior of her home was eclectically furnished – a blend of antiques, unconventional yet elegant lighting, vintage mirrors and paintings, whimsical accessories, wicker baskets, yard sale gems, integrated gifts from near and far, and of course generous use of whites and blues. Similarly, Gayle’s casual but elegant fashion sense was an authentic form of self-expression – country chic or what she called “looking jazzy” perhaps best sums up her love of denims, soft cotton white blouses, French tams and an endless rotation of colourful scarves, dangly earrings, long necklaces and other one-of-a-kind accents.
Always an active member of her community, Gayle could be counted on to visit aging neighbours, contribute to fundraising efforts, and to support the arts. She was a Red Hatter, took painting lessons with John Keast and practiced yoga in various groups and settings over the years. At home, her artistic flair extended to a host of crafts and any number of culinary adventures. Her recipes were inspired by cultures from around the world, and warrant publishing. Comfort foods were prominently featured – baking with her children and grandchildren, wildly decadent homemade easter treats, an endless series of veggie platters – sukiyaki, tofu moussaka and Pad Thai were all within her repertoire.
Forever and for always, Gayle’s deep love for her family and special friends, her gentle soul and quiet playfulness at every gathering, and her steadfast caring for others will never be forgotten. Above all, she herself was loved and adored. We will miss Gayle beyond anything which words can express.
A private ceremony will be held with immediate family, with a Celebration of Life to follow in late June, 2024 – on or near St. Joseph Island (details will be announced by the family at a later date).
Donations would be warmly appreciated to:
- The Heart and Stroke Foundation
- North Shore Health Network Auxiliary — Matthews Site
Arrangements are entrusted to the Arthur Funeral Home – Barton and Kiteley Chapel (492 Wellington
St, East, Sault Ste. Marie).