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Minnie McCurdy

Minnie Ethel McCurdy (nee Black) born February 11, 1907, in Fredericton, NB, passed away in Toronto after a brief illness on Monday, April 11, 2011. She was the daughter of Robert LeBaron Black, (February 12, 1865 - August 28, 1945) Merchant, Fredericton, NB and Minnie Blackmer (October 24, 1876 - March 13, 1907). Shortly after the death of her Mother, Minnie was cared for by a distant relative, Mrs. Helen Gough (Black) whom she came to know as Mother. Mrs. Gough’s daughter, Ethel (Bobbie), nineteen years Minnie’s senior, took on the role of older sister and guardian. Minnie attended the Charlotte Street Public School and Fredericton High School in Fredericton then moved to Halifax where she graduated with a Licenciate of Music from Dalhousie University 1927. She began her love of piano at the age of seven, her first music teacher being Miss Anna May McAdam (later Mrs. F. E. Lister). While at Ladies College, Halifax, she studied with Harry Dean. In July, 1934, Minnie sailed to Europe aboard the RMS Newfoundland to meet her fiance, Dr. Gordon Alexander McCurdy (November 15, 1907 - November 22, 1944) who was completing his post graduate studies in Pathology with Sir Robert Muir at the Glasgow Infirmary. They had planned an elopement and were married shortly after her arrival. Upon their return to Canada they settled for a short time in Halifax, NS where Gordon was employed at the Victoria General Hospital and in 1937 they moved to Victoria, British Columbia as Gordon had accepted the position of Head, Pathology at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. Their last home in Victoria was 345 Foul Bay Road. After Gordon’s death, Minnie returned to Halifax and then accepted a teaching position in Edmonton, Alberta for a brief period before moving to Toronto in 1946 where she accepted a position at the main Branch of the Royal Conservatory of Music. Minnie worked with Dr. Ernesto Vinci accompanying and coaching many of his students. She taught piano and coached voice and retired at the age of 89. Minnie was constantly aiming to improve her piano technique and studied for some time with Canadian composer, songwriter, pianist and music educator, Ernie Seitz (The World is Waiting for the Sunrise). Along with Mary Syme (Canadian author, composer and pianist), Minnie toured several Ontario towns and accompanied various artists as part of the McCool Tours, arranged by Major Brian McCool (Assistant Director of Music for the Department of Education). To earn extra money, she also accepted an offer by Rex Battle (pianist, conductor, composer) to perform at the Gaslight Restaurant in Yorkville, accompanying young operatic singers on the evenings that he was unable to keep engagements. Minnie resided at City Park Apartments Toronto between 1956 to 2009 at which time she moved to the Dunfield Retirement Residence. She was the first resident of this beautiful new facility which allowed her to live independently and to enjoy her last year and a half to its fullest. She continued to play her Mason & Hamlin Grand Piano until her move to the residence. Unfortunately, macular degeneration no longer allowed her to read and learn new pieces which distressed her greatly. She did, however, have many pieces committed to memory and practiced these along with scales and arpeggios on a daily basis. Upon her arrival at the Dunfield, arrangements had been made by the staff to purchase a second grand piano. It was placed in the Multipurpose Room, allowing Minnie the opportunity to continue her music in a quiet setting. A fall soon after her arrival injured her arm and she was not able to pursue one of her two greatest loves. Minnie was an avid supporter of the Canadian Opera Company and had recently attended the Saturday evening performance of Nixon in China at the Four Seasons Centre. She renewed her subscription for the 2011-2012 season with a comment once the form was completed, “Forever the optimist”. As a note of interest, she was accompanist for many aspiring opera singers during auditions for the newly formed Opera Company and attended the first performance continuing her support of the Opera from that time forth. She also held subscription tickets to the Aldeburgh Concerts at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music and attended her last performance on Sunday, March 6, 2011. Minnie leaves behind her sister in law, Margot McCurdy, Halifax, NS, and several McCurdy nieces and nephews, dear friend Lynne Rawding (Tom Holman) Lower Sackville, NS whose family (Mr. & Mrs. A.C. Millie) Minnie resided with while attending college in Halifax. In the last few years, she was reunited with members of the Blackmer family, a first cousin, Dr. John Blackmer, (Dolores) Fredericton, NB, second cousin, Aggie Blackmer (Robert Elliott), Camas, WA as well as other Blackmer cousins. She will be dearly missed by her very close friends and former students and her new circle of friends at the Dunfield Retirement Residence. Minnie’s greatest love was her husband Gordon. Her wish was that she be cremated and that her ashes be interred at his grave in the Royal Oak Burial Park in Victoria. BC. She has also requested that a monument be placed in the Fredericton Rural Cemetery, Fredericton, NB, to honor her parents, her husband and her life.
In keeping with Minnie’s wishes, there will not be any visitation or service. Although Minnie supported various charities her entire life, her focus rested with the safety and care of animals. Should you wish to recognize Minnie’s life, the following three organizations are suggested: The Toronto Humane Society; The Royal Conservatory of Music "In Tribute" to Minnie; contact Rebecca Green (416) 408-2824 x450; The Aldeburgh Connection Concert Series, 8E - 86 Gerrard Street East, Toronto ON M5B 2J1, or call 416-735-7982. In October 2010, Minnie was featured in a radio documentary on CBC The Current entitled, “The Perfect Martini”. Last month, she was also featured in a publication of Toronto Today; “To the Good times; all 104 years. Both of these and other information regarding Minnie can be easily accessed through an online search by typing the keywords: Minnie McCurdy Toronto. Closing Remarks: Minnie was a strong willed, independent and generous woman who, even a few days prior to her illness, was in touch with friends who were not well. She offered whatever help or support she could. She entertained to the end, having invited guests for lunch a few days before her sudden illness and she was most annoyed that she was forced to cancel a planned dinner party the night of her illness. I will miss our Tuesday and Thursday evening dinners, our opera nights and Sunday concerts but most of all, the special friendship, bond and the many laughs that we have shared these past thirty-two years. Should I be so fortunate to live to a 104, I hope that I retain these memories of Minnie and that perhaps I too will have her passion for life. Yes, Minnie, once everything is settled, I promise I will arrange an afternoon where we can raise a glass to you. Good bye and thanks for sharing this time with me. With love and affection, Steven H. J. Bickerstaffe Special thanks to the Albert Latner Family and the Dunfield Team and staff of the Dunfield Retirement Residence. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the the medical and nursing staff at Toronto General Hospital, Eaton South Wing, thirteenth floor for caring for and ensuring Minnie’s comfort in her final days. Condolences to www.etouch.ca.


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