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This article was published 17/10/2014 (1038 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Lindor Reynolds would have made good royalty.
Like the night in 2005 when the award-winning columnist won yet another, well, award; in this case being honoured with the YMCA-YWCA Woman of Distinction.
She was beaming.
"Lindor had a way of radiating joy when she was happy, and that night, as she accepted the Y award as a Woman of Distinction, her smile made the whole room brighter," said former Free Press editor Margo Goodhand, now the editor of the Edmonton Journal. "She was the kind of woman who — as we liked to tease her — was born to wear a tiara. To us, she was the queen of the evening."
That same night, in accepting her award in the media and public relations category of volunteer service, Reynolds said, "I do a job that I’m incredibly honoured to do, to write about the things that really matter to me."
Reynolds did exactly that in the pages of the Winnipeg Free Press for two decades.
On Thursday, Reynolds died after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. She was 56 and leaves behind husband Neil and four daughters.
Reynolds was "a remarkable talent," offered Free Press editor Paul Samyn. "She brought depth and passion to her writing. She loved our craft, and that love could be seen in her columns. There were so many times over the past 15 months when stories in our city cried out for the voice that was her column.
"Our newsroom will miss her dearly."
In fact, in honour of her passing, Samyn also announced Friday the Free Press will be publishing a collection of Reynolds’ columns in an e-book.
"I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to Lindor than to wrap up some of her best columns into a book that will see the proceeds go to the Christmas Cheer Board, a charity she worked so tirelessly to support for so many years with the power of her words," Samyn said.
Reynolds’ writing often gravitated to social justice issues, in particular involving children. She championed the newspaper’s Pennies for Heaven campaign, a fundraising arm of the Christmas Cheer Board. Reynolds earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorous Public Service, which included investigative series on pedophiles stalking children on the Internet and flaws in the Manitoba child welfare system.
"Lindor was an inspiration and she had such a way of connecting with people — especially children," noted friend Louis Trepel, who recalled making gingerbread houses with Reynolds and a bunch of kids at an event for an inner-city school’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder program.
"Lindor loved the kids — I remember some really powerful moments at David Livingstone School," Trepel said. "It was magical — she was almost angel-like," he said. "The way she treated the kids and worked with the kids was an inspiration."
Even after her diagnosis, Reynolds embarked on a project to generate enough funds to build a classroom in rural Kenya.
And she did, raising $18,000.
"When Lindor was first diagnosed, she didn’t want to spend all her time focusing on her illness," said Laura Hawkins, who worked with Reynolds on the fundraising project. "She wanted to be productive and to continue to make a difference. Lindor gave so much to so many people in this community over many years, organizations large and small, schools and individuals. It was fitting that this important project that was so near and dear to her heart was so successful."
Reynolds’ notion to build a school was fostered after meeting international children’s rights activist and Free The Children co-founder Craig Kielburger.
"I had the opportunity to share a pot of tea with Lindor last spring. She was frail but determined. Fragile but strong," Kielburger told the Free Press on Friday. "I cherish the time we spent together and the tenacity she showed in the face of a terminal illness. She wanted to use her diagnosis of cancer for the greater good. Her legacy will live on in the schoolchildren who will have a place to learn because of her."
Reynolds journalistic career didn’t begin with such gravitas. Although her first article was published when she was just 17 (growing up in West Kildonan), she didn’t join the Free Press as a columnist, admittedly her dream job, until 1994.
David Northcott, executive director of Winnipeg Harvest, was a long-time friend who considered Reynolds a touchstone for local issues. The two would meet for lunch almost every week.
"Issues came to her and she chose to get involved," Northcott said. "I really value that she did that; to have a voice from the Free Press, to have columnists of that stature, that really changes the game for us."
"She was a wonderful lady," added Kai Madsen, an executive director of the Christmas Cheer board. "She had a heart that just didn’t know when to stop. She did wonderful things with a very short life."
In the newsroom, the red-headed Reynolds’ cubicle was an area of decorum, although her cackle was widely known. Her tongue could be as sharp as her mind, almost always good-naturedly. When a visitor to her bedside at the Riverview Health Centre told her to "Be good," she simply replied, "Why?"
On August 16, Reynolds wrote her last column entitled, "Thanks for letting me into your lives," which broached her deteriorating health and her last wish: to see her daughter’s wedding.
"Please know you have been the greatest gift to me," she wrote, adressing her readers. "You have allowed me into your homes, your lives as I have done this most marvellous of jobs. We have laughed, cried, been angry, and in the end, been a little bit better from our connections. I know I have."
When Reynolds’ best friend, Cate Harrington, was asked what she would miss most, she replied: "Everything. Simply picking up the phone and saying, ‘hello.' That amazing throw-your-head-back-and-laugh. She was a very good listener."
It was only last year that Reynolds won her first National Newspaper Award for a piece on a Scanterbury resident who built a giant red chair to honour the community’s ditch-wavers. She was planning a trip to France with her husband. There was loose talk of someday retirement and travel.
On her 55th birthday, Reynolds filled the dinner table with her best friends, Harrington said, those who had the most impact on her life.
How did Reynolds celebrate? "She beamed," Harrington said.
— with files from Carol Sanders, Alexandra Paul and Nick Martin