BARBER, Katherine Patricia Mary - (1959 - 2021) - Katherine Barber, aka "Canada’s Word Lady," died on April 24, 2021 at Bridgepoint Healthcare Centre in Toronto. It was a beautiful spring day with flowers beginning to bloom - as appropriate for such an avid gardener.
Katherine was diagnosed with a particularly virulent and rapid form of brain cancer that took her life a mere two weeks after its diagnosis.
A woman of prodigious intellect and achievement, she was a true Renaissance woman, deeply knowledgeable and in love with the English language, ballet, flowers, baking, Gilbert & Sullivan, international travel, choral church music, and most of all, her cats.
She was fluent in French and German and conversant in Italian. Her greatest achievement was being the inspiration and founding editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary - the first dictionary of its kind and a lasting contribution to the development of Canadian culture.
She also wrote a couple of best-selling books on aspects of the English language and was well-known for her witty radio spots, lectures, and blogs about the history of the English language and the many unique aspects of Canadian English.
Katherine loved ballet and danced with expression and enthusiasm in ballet classes all her adult life. Through this she made many lifelong friends. Subsequently, she founded Tours en l’Air, a company that provided guided tours for balletomanes to see performances by the world’s leading ballet companies in Europe and North America. Through her excellent networking she was able to arrange backstage visits with the dancers as well as tours to local museums and cultural sites.
She also loved to sing and was a dedicated Alto in the St. Thomas’s Anglican choir. She cherished the opportunity to sing with her choir in Toronto as well as a visiting choir in Westminster Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral, and Canterbury Cathedral.
Born in England, she moved to Canada at age eight and grew up in Winnipeg. Upon graduation from the University of Winnipeg she taught English for a year in Rouen, France then subsequently moved to Ottawa and Toronto to pursue her career in lexicography.
She was predeceased by her father, Gordon, and mother, Patricia. Left to mourn are her sister, Martha (Bob), brothers Josh (Cheryl) and Peter (Sherry), nephews Daniel (Lindsay), Michael (Bronte), Stephen, Gabriel and Tristan (Carly), niece Beth (Jerren), and great-niece Molly.
She was surrounded by a multitude of devoted friends. We cannot thank enough the many kindnesses showed to Katherine by her many friends and neighbours. Especial thanks, to her dear friends Katherine Karbownik and Peng Chiang for their endless support during the difficult last weeks, and to the medical teams at Mount Sinai Hospital and Bridgepoint Health Care.
No Visitation will be possible in present circumstances but, pandemic permitting, the family hopes to hold a Memorial Service on September 8th.
Funeral service to be held at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church on May 4th at 11.00 am. In person attendance will be limited to immediate family members, but the service will be livestreamed via FuneraWeb at https://funeraweb.tv/en/diffusions/28746, an online memorial site on Trull Funeral Home’s website.
Burial to take place at a later date in Manitoba amidst her family forebears.
Donations in her memory may be made to the National Ballet of Canada, St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Toronto, or the Canadian Cancer Society.