By Emily Stonehouse
A guiding light, a welcoming smile, and one of a kind – those are just a few of the terms used to describe Patti Fleury.
Many readers would recognize Fleury’s name from her regular contributions to the Minden Times, which she called Around the Town, and highlighted the happenings in her corner of the world: Kinmount. In the columns, she would feature the Legion events, upcoming yard sales, euchre scores, and celebrate all the colour of the place she called home. She had a way of writing that made everyone feel like they were part of something special.
And that’s just who she was. “She was an overarching warmth, a kindness, she was a person that made anyone feel like they were the only one in the room,” shared Fleury’s granddaughter, Emma Fleury Harvey. “She was always the last to speak, and the first to listen.”
Patti Fleury met her husband and best friend, Bruce Fleury, while working at a children’s camp for children with special needs. Her and Bruce had dreams of one day starting their own camp. What started as a dream quickly became a reality, and the couple launched the Connemara Camp and Center at their family farm. It was the first camp to integrate children who were neurodivergent and neurotypical, as well as children with physical impairments. “At the time, it was something that was quite progressive,” said Emma. “They lived a life of helping others.” Patti and Bruce went on to run the camp during their summers for 15 years, impacting countless childrens’ lives.
Patti worked in medicine for the majority of her life, after studying Physio and Occupational Therapy at the University of Toronto. During her studies, she was frustrated that the program was not observed as a degree program, so she worked her way up to secure a position on the Governing Council for the university, and was the first student to ever join the board. She then managed to petition to make the program a degree, and then went back to complete the requisite requirements to obtain her degree.
“That was probably one of the things she was most proud of,” said Emma. “By making that program a degree program, she would have changed thousands of peoples lives.”
Most of Patti’s professional career was spent at the Scarborough General Hospital, where she worked in a variety of departments, including prenatal, rehabilitative, and palliative.
Emma shared that Patti would make all her patients feel seen, welcomed, and loved. “There was one person in palliative care who had lost his hands, but he loved painting” Emma said, “and my grandma figured out a way to set him up with everything he needed to paint with his feet. She just wanted to bring people joy.”
Sometimes, Emma recalled that her grandmother would wear a Mickey Mouse pin, with little cartoon hands waving. One year, Emma asked why Patti was wearing the pin, to which she replied warmly, “it’s my reminder to smile, Emma.”
Emma was gifted the pin several Christmases ago from her grandmother, and told the Times that she still wears it whenever she needs a smile.
Upon retirement, Patti and Bruce moved up to Kinmount to permanently live at their farm.
It was here that they continually became involved with the goings-on of the place that held their heart. They were founding members of the Kinmount Pioneer Society, the Kimount United Church, and founded the Kinmount Artisans Market.
In 2012, Patti was celebrated as Kinmount’s Citizen of the Year. David Anderson of the Kinmount and District Lions Club, introduced Patti by saying the follow:
“This year’s candidate helped found and has been part of the development and operation of what is known as the Kinmount Artisans Marketplace. She participates in organizing the children’s craft day at March break, Kinmount and Area Harvest Homecoming Studio Tour and the annual Kinmount Artisans Christmas Bazaar. And she also promotes all our Kinmount events and activities through her column Around the Town in the Minden Times.”
At the event, Patti joked that she had been called to the Kinmount Fairgrounds thinking she was needed to fix the weaving wheel at the event, as the winner of the award is kept a secret until the big reveal.
Upon the win, Patti said “At the Academy Awards, you always have to thank your husband, right?” before going on to thank Bruce as her “personal chauffeur and editorial assistant.”
On March 23, the bright light of Patti Fleury was dimmed, as she passed away at the age of 86. The community, her friends, and her family are mourning the loss of the zestful spirit. “Close doesn’t even begin to describe what me and my grandma were,” said Emma. “We were best friends.”
Now grown with her own child, Emma has taken to celebrating the life and legacy of her grandparents in the best way she knows how: through writing. “Since I was ten, I’ve been really interested in family history,” she told the Times, “so instead of a birthday gift each year, I would ask for an heirloom.”
It was through these heirlooms that Emma was inspired to write the stories of her four grandparents, and share them in a children’s book. The story of Patti was one she was just diving into during the time of her death. “It had been sitting on my chest for a long time,” she said, “so finally, I wrote my grandma’s pages on the day that she died.”
Emma believes that she will continue the legacy of her grandmother through her actions. “She always said ‘be kind’; that was her motto, and she would always say to me, ‘Emma, just keep in mind that everyone is doing their best.’ She was the most selfless person I’ve ever known.”
Patti Fleury connected thousands through this selfless life. From seeing the best in everyone who crossed her path, to forging a path so others could have new opportunities, to celebrating the everyday life and times in Kinmount, Ontario, she made the world a brighter place. There will be a Celebration of Life on Sunday May 7, 2023, 1:00 pm at the Kinmount Community Centre, located at 4995 Monck Rd Kinmount, Ontario.
Patti always concluded Around the Town in the Minden Times with three simple words. Three words that promised more, that offered hope, that made readers feel like they were a part of something bigger.
On behalf of the Minden Times writers and readers, who are now following on the path of kindness, acceptance, and joy that Patti Fleury paved for our corner of the world, this seems like an apt time to share those three words: “until next time…”