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Born six weeks premature to Doreen Philip, an English war bride, and Peter Heaton, a Royal Canadian Air Force navigator, Philippa defied her uncertain beginning to become an elegant and stunning fashionista.

Big sister to Cathie, Philippa was 6 when their father died of a heart attack. Doreen, raising her daughters alone, had Philippa's help in ensuring that lunches were made, hair was brushed and little sister was safely delivered to school each day.

When Philippa was 16, a job in the fabric department of the Bay blossomed into a lifelong passion for sewing, fashion and knowing how to choose the perfect pair of shoes.

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The stars lined up when Philippa, who had moved to Toronto in 1968, met Rob Ellaway while they were both working at the Toronto Stock Exchange. They married in 1971.

Returning to Vancouver to begin their life together, Rob knew he was in for an interesting journey when Philippa was greeted with great exuberance by staff at her favourite high-end shoe store, despite having been away a few years.

During her long career as a legal secretary, Philippa met each new challenge of office automation, from manual typewriter to computerization, with perseverance, determination and a large dose of humour and patience.

She maintained her usual optimism and courage when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 22 years ago. Responding to queries on her well-being, she would say, "Oh, I feel much better than yesterday and I know I will feel better tomorrow." This philosophy endured when cancer returned five years ago, after a long period of wellness.

At 53, Philippa took up running. It became a passion, and despite times when treatments interfered with training, she remained a cherished core member of a North Vancouver running group, completing 10-kilometre and half-marathon runs.

While assembling tributes for her memorial service, Rob came across a thank-you note that personified Philippa's life: "… Never have I known anyone to give so much of themselves, including the unselfish caring and friendship that you pour into everyone who comes in contact with you." Written in 1966, when Philippa was just 20, this theme recurred repeatedly in get-well and condolence cards nearly 45 years later.

Philippa epitomized grace, strength and courage. "… throw off everything that hinders … let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

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Linda Ploen and Valerie Sproule are Philippa's friends, and Rob Ellaway is Philippa's husband.

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