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Patsy Ramsay 1944 – April 7, 2011

Patsay Ramsay lived in the L’Arche Daybreak community from 1974 and later moved to the L’Arche Toronto community. She was a much-loved member of the Toronto community and maintained many friendships at Daybreak. This tribute to her life was written by Sue Mosteller.


Patsy Ramsay and Bill Van Buren standing outside the Woodery

After a very comfortable life of thirty years with her beloved mother, Patsy Ramsay’s mother died in 1974. Shortly after that, Patsy moved into the the budding community of L’Arche Daybreak at the New House. It had to be quite a shock – from two mutually devoted women living together in a cosy house, to a home of 12 men and women, all unrelated, and with many diverse backgrounds and interests.

It also happened that Patsy came just two weeks prior to our Communal departure to spend Easter with 200 others in Canterbury, England. Patsy however adapted,and seemed to take it all in stride – with a little help from some of the assistants! While in England, during a celebratory visit we made to the new L’Arche community in Canterbury, Patsy overly indulged in the warm mead that was served as a local (quite powerful alcoholic) drink. It wasn’t long before she was feeling no pain, and not long after that, unable to walk alone. But she was extremely happy with the great men that supported her arms and almost carried her into the bus for our trip back to the college!

Early on, Patsy showed a great interest in learning new things. Her way of telling this to us was her expressed desire to control her own life, especially her money, and not have others making decisions for her property. Mary Lou Halferty, the Head of the House at the time, recounted that first Patsy had to instruct her, Mary Lou, not to assume that she had the right to decide how others should spend their money! The learning had to be mutual! Soon the formal teaching began and Liz Morelli spent lots of time giving Patsy lessons on the distinction between quarters and dimes, or two fives and a ten. Patsy agreed with everything Liz said and at first Liz thought she was really doing a good job. However, when she finished a long lesson of demonstrating how both two fives or a ten could buy something worth $10, and Patsy had wholeheartedly agreed with everything Liz said, Liz gave Patsy one final example. “Patsy, if you went into a store and saw a sweater that you liked and wanted to buy, and it cost $10, you could give the lady either the two fives, or the ten, and she’ll give you the sweater. Do you understand that?” “Yes I do!” said Patsy emphatically. “Very good!” said Liz. “And do you have any questions?” “Yes,” answered Patsy quickly. “What color is the sweater?”

Patsy had the wonderful gift of unconditional welcome and love. In her 37 years in L’Arche, she welcomed into her home, literally hundreds of assistants, some so skilled and kind, and others who took time to learn how to live in community and be kind and helpful. But Patsy trusted us to give her help with her personal care. She also welcomed hundreds of guests over the years, cooking for them and serving them and making them feel welcome. Unconditional acceptance, unconditional love, and unconditional forgiveness were Patsy’s gifts to us over many, many years.

Her favorite activities were celebrations of any kind, mainly because Patsy so much enjoyed her food. Birthdays, communal gatherings, dances, or receptions all fit the bill! After she moved to Toronto and I still lived in Richmond Hill, we tried to have dinner together at least once a month. She’s say, “Let’s go to the Greek restaurant because I LOVE Greek food.” When we got there, her order exactly matched her order at McDonald’s! “I’ll have a hamburger and fries please!” And on the way home, she liked to reiterate. “I just LOVE Greek food!”

For many years Patsy coped with the difficulty of growing dementia, and during her final year, life became much more difficult. Some days were less hard, but many days were confusing and full of anxiety. The people in Patsy’s home at Mortimer House surrounded her with loving care and concern, comforted her, and held her hand through long, suffering hours. Patsy died peacefully, surrounded by her many friends and admirers on April 8th, 2011. Her funeral, planned by community members of L’Arche Toronto, was a fitting celebration of her life.

During her lifetime Patsy had many long-term friendships with the people of L’Arche, past and present. Her love and faithfulness changed us all! Her very unique inner grace and spunkiness – enhanced by her outer ways of dressing, using jewelry, and jaunty hats – bound us to her in mutual friendship and love. Her life may be summed up in an early experience of getting ready for Mary and Joe Egan’s wedding over 30 years ago. Marnie was helping her get ready and Patsy was resisting strongly to having her hair curled. Finally, after much negotiation, Marnie was allowed to do her hair, which finally looked wonderful. Dressed and ready Patsy beheld herself in the mirror, drew a deep breath, and said, “I’m so beautiful!” We think so too, Patsy! Godspeed, rest in peace, don’t forget us, and may love surround you forever!