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Mary Gazetas

Mark Patrick/Richmond Review

Community organizer, artist, writer, mentor, irrepressible foodie. Born Oct. 21, 1943, in West Vancouver, B.C.; died April 17, 2012, in Richmond, B.C., of complications from an infection, aged 68.

Mary was born a twin, into a family of six in 1943, in West Vancouver. Her father, David Brock, was a writer and broadcaster. Her mother, Babs, a musician, was the sister of Jean Coulthard, the noted Canadian composer.

Mary grew up in a creative family of writers, musicians, artists and filmmakers, a family that encouraged individuality. They also loved living on the beach, boating in Howe Sound and skiing the back hills of Holly Burn. These early pursuits fuelled many of Mary's later passions.

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At the University of British Columbia, Mary and Phoebe, the Brock twins, made sure not to go down twin paths. Phoebe opted for the social sciences while Mary immersed herself in fine arts and theatre, and fell in love with her prof, Aristides Gazetas. Ari went on to teach at the National Theatre School and Sir George Williams in the late 1960s, and Mary followed him, studying theatre design for two years, from 1966 to 1968. Mary and Ari raised three children, Michael, Sophie and Calliope, while working in a number of cities: Montreal, Windsor, Calgary, Lethbridge and Charlottetown. In the early 1980s, Mary landed a job with the City of Richmond, and the family moved west. It was a dream job, managing heritage and culture programs. She worked there from the early 1980s to 1998. Then, along with a colleague, she set up office to manage the Britannia Heritage Shipyard project and other initiatives at Branscombe House, a wonderful old house with a garden facing south. They began planting sweet peas, then vegetables, during lunch hours. There was too much, so they started giving it away, which led to her tennis pals dreaming up "grow a row" for others. Mary and her friend leased a bit of land where there was a dog kennel, and called it the Barking Dog Farm. (That led eventually to an even bigger project down the road, the award-winning Terra Nova Sharing Farm.)

Mary went on to write a weekly column, Folio One, sharing her provocative, humorous views of the city, for the Richmond Review, from 2002 to 2011. She wrote a paddling book, Around One More Point, a journal rich with story, sketches and photographic images, which was published in 2006. She also contributed to the blog, the Alzheimer's Reading Room.

How was it that so many loved Mary? Mostly it was because of her generosity, her unselfishness, her energy. She was visionary, creative, and a risk taker. She knew when to cross the boundaries and break the rules. She taught her peers and other volunteers how to have fun while attaining success. People of all ages and cultures wanted to be with Mary.

What impressed so many about Mary, those who were fortunate enough to work with or volunteer with her on community boards, committees, creating gardens, establishing community farms, picking fruit, was her ability to get things done. It was infectious, this "we can do it" spirit.

Her editor, Bhreandain Clugston of the Richmond Review, wrote, "She quickly gained a reputation as someone who didn't see obstacles, who could move mountains and inspire others."

Mary, so missed by her family and many friends, lives on through her legacies and indefatigable spirit.

Phoebe Dunbar is Mary's twin.

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