Cover photo for Dora Rathbun's Obituary
1934 Dora 2020

Dora Rathbun

November 17, 1934 — April 30, 2020

RATHBUN, DORA EDITH (née BANKS) November 17, 1934 - April 30, 2020

Born in North Bay, Ontario, Canada to Ray Wellington Banks and Margaret May Banks (née Patterson), Dora was the youngest of six children. She enjoyed school and was active in the Trinity United Church where she became a Canadian Girls In Training (CGIT) leader. Dora was an accomplished pianist who played both by sight and by ear; a skill she willingly used to add enjoyment to any gathering. A quiet, gentle soul, Dora loved to laugh. Nothing made her giggle more than a clever pun and time spent with her cherished siblings and their families.

Her lifelong appreciation for the beauty of nature began as a child. She would spend summers at the family cottage on Trout Lake, winters both downhill and cross-country skiing, and enjoyed painting and photography year-round. Just being near nature made her happy. Fall was her favourite season with its brilliant colours.

On August 14, 1954, Dora married William (Bill) Arnold Rathbun, a budding radio journalist at the local CFCH station. Shortly after their marriage, Bill’s work took them to Meadowvale, Ontario where their first daughter, Jennifer, was born in 1956. Soon Bill’s career took them to Edmonton, Alberta where their second daughter, Susan, was born in 1961. They returned to Ontario, first living briefly in Ottawa before finally settling in Scarborough where they welcomed their third daughter, Carolin, in 1964.

A stay-at-home mom, Dora created a loving home. She enjoyed sewing and made many of her own outfits as well as most of her young daughters’ clothes. She would even make intricate outfits for their Barbie dolls with the scrap material. Ever the consummate homemaker, Dora would don her apron and make every meal special, always putting care into creating beautiful presentations. Favourite hobbies included building model kits of ‘old cars’ and making ingeniously designed cut-out paper dolls. Dora happily helped with her daughters’ school events. She volunteered in the special needs classroom and was a dedicated and highly-valued member of the PTA.

As a family, they enjoyed many camping adventures. They travelled the length of the newly opened Alaska Highway to Anchorage, and camped en route to destinations such as the Giant Redwood Forests of Oregon, and Disneyland, California. Dora and Bill ensured their girls saw all parts of Canada too. They enjoyed cross-country camping trips, first driving from Ontario to the East Coast, then later west to Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta. They also went north aboard the Polar Bear Express train from Cochrane to Moosonee. In between, they camped in almost every Ontario Provincial Park and often revisited their favourites: Killarney, Bon Echo and Algonquin. It’s no surprise that Dora became a skilled open fire and Coleman stove chef, preparing challenging delicacies like stew and dumplings and the latest freeze-dried options when the family ventured on extended interior canoe trips through Quetico and Killarney Provincial Parks.

As the girls grew, Dora took a more active role in Bill’s career. In 1984, she accompanied him to the National Defence College in Kingston, Ontario where she partook in many of the lectures and courses being offered to participants and spouses. A highlight included an in-depth tour of the Canadian Arctic via a Hercules aircraft visiting Resolute Bay in Nunavut, Yellowknife and more. In 1986, Dora and Bill went to Vancouver, British Columbia for his eight-month assignment with the Ontario Pavilion at Expo ’86. There, she embraced her role as Guest Relations Hostess for V-VIP’s welcoming such dignitaries as Prime Minister and Mrs. Mulroney, Ontario Premier and Mrs. Peterson, Thor Heyerdahl, and Princess Margaret, among other celebrities and officials. She also helped to manage Guest Relations staff and volunteers. For several months of 1992, Bill was posted in New York City for work. Dora often joined him and enjoyed touring visiting family and friends around the many iconic sites and museums, attending Broadway plays, The Maple Leaf Ball and tea at The Plaza Hotel, home of a favourite book character, Eloise! Through these postings, she made lasting friendships with wonderful people from all over the world. In later years Dora and Bill visited many of them in in their faraway homes.

Dora and Bill loved to travel. Destinations included Hawaii, the South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Morocco, the United Kingdom and Europe. “Dora The Explorer” celebrated her 50th Birthday over lunch in the Eiffel Tower, Paris. Upon Bill’s retirement, they became tour directors for a number of travel and educational organizations, leading tours for seniors to Spain, Portugal and the Greek Islands. As proud Canadians, they also developed and managed programs for Elderhostel Canada, leading 22 tours of ‘Canada’s Railway Dream’ — a rail trip from Montreal to Vancouver.

In 1996, Dora and Bill retired to Gravenhurst, Ontario where Dora quickly got involved in community events. They volunteered for Meals On Wheels and were ushers at the Gravenhurst Opera House. Dora assisted with many of Bill’s Rotary Club events including fundraising for an educational project in Cambodia. They also  helped to host several foreign Rotary Exchange Students, touring them to some of their favourite Ontario sites, sharing their love and pride of Muskoka, Ontario and Canada. In addition, they contributed to the Rotary Endowment Fund establishing The Bill and Dora Rathbun Family Bursary to financially assist Gravenhurst students pursue post-secondary education.

Proud supporters of arts and culture, Dora and Bill held annual memberships at McMichael’s Canadian Art Collection, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum, Royal Alexandra Theatre, and the Stratford and Shaw Festivals. They also attended many local events throughout Muskoka. Dora loved Canadian artists, specifically Doris McCarthy and Emily Carr, The Group of Seven and Indigenous West Coast Art.

Dora was a loving grandmother. Her grandchildren delighted her and she took great care and consideration to plan special visits with each of them that would nurture their individual interests and pass on her love of Canadiana, musical theatre, books, nature, arts and crafts, travel and culture. No doubt she would have watched proudly as her grandchildren became parents themselves had Alzheimer’s not robbed her of such pleasures.

Dora passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease on April 30, 2020 at the age of 85. She spent her final seven years in the loving and capable care of the nurses, personal support workers and staff at Bradford Valley Care Community in Bradford, Ontario.

Dora is survived by her sister Ivie Henry (Banks); daughter Jennifer Scott and her children Joshua Scott (Erin), Jacqueline Handley (Greg), Joanna Gamsby (Andrew); daughter Susan Rueger and husband Ray; daughter Carolin Rathbun and her children Katharine and Steven Grandin; and great grandchildren Emerson Handley, Meriska Scott, Ella and Blake Gamsby. Predeceased by her husband William Arnold Rathbun (2015), parents Ray and May Banks (Patterson), siblings Gladys Banks, Jean Dowdall (Banks), William Banks, Kendrick Banks, and son-in-law C. Jeffrey Scott (Jennifer).

Cremation has taken place. A Celebration of Life will be held in the future. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada or Women’s Brain Health Initiative.


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