BARRY’S BAY – Stephanie Ruth Atkinson has a vibrant history. But she will be most remembered for the time she spent helping others here in the valley.
The energetic senior was born January 3, 1938 in Maidstone, situated in the county of Kent, England. She grew up during war times, where she and her sisters would practice taking cover in the air raid shelter in the family’s backyard.
When she was young, she had a bout of tuberculosis and vowed to beat it. She was not expected to live.
But she did.
Stephanie’s life was obviously meant for something bigger.
In her late teenage years, she began her modelling venture. But modelling was different overseas. She did not model clothing, but items like carpeting and furniture instead.
After hearing so much about Canada, she decided that she would immigrate to the country. She boarded a boat and made the long trip across the pond in the 1960’s.
She settled in Montreal, and spent some time there before heading to Ontario. In the years to follow, she became the first administration officer in the admission building of Ryerson University.
When she was not working, she modelled for Sea Queen bathing suits. All of her friends said she had great legs.
Stephanie moved from Ryerson to Levi Sraus which was just starting to set up shop in Canada in the 1970’s. She set up the administration for the advertising department and became advertising manager of Levi Straus.
It was where she met Bob Atkinson, a charming man who worked as the director of operations for the same company.
The two fell in love, and lived together for several years. Bob had children from a previous marriage, but Stephanie embraced them as if they were hers.
Bob did not have time to propose the conventional way. It actually happened the other way around.
“I came home one night for dinner and she said, ‘by the way, we are getting married,’” Bob laughed.
He did not argue. They got married at The Old Mill in Toronto with about 75 people in attendance.
Over the years, the couple moved around, but would often come up to the valley to escape the city. When he was young, Bob had discovered the region with his father.
“We kept coming and Stephanie fell in love with the area,” he said.
They eventually bought a home on Golden Lake, where Bob still lives to this day. Stephanie was neat as a pin and loved clothes. In fact, she made most of her own. She also fell in love with stain glass and made many unique pieces.
Bob said his wife had an attention to detail.
“She had the patience of Job when she was searching something out. She would stay with it until it made sense to her,” Bob explained.
Stephanie had a profound love for sports. She did it all; golf, tennis, fishing, curling and everything in-between. It was that love that connected her with the Opeongo Senior’s Centre in Barry’s Bay.
Around 13 years ago, she and Bob were in Calabogie and met Barry’s Bay resident Gwenneth Foster. The three were on the committee for the Renfrew County senior’s games, and essentially were the ones that brought the games to Barry’s Bay in 2003.
It was one of the most successful senior games in Ontario and raised more money than any other town that hosted the games.
But Stephanie saw that there was a need for her help at the Opeongo Senior’s Centre.
Story continues in the March 6, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.