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Johanna Hendrika ter Woort

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Johanna Hendrika ter Woort

October 2, 1940 - June 2, 2024

Johanna Hendrika Geertman ter Woort: Campaigner for justice and fairness. Animal Lover. Gardener. Linguist. Tennis Player. Born October 2, 1940, in Almelo, The Netherlands. Died June 2, 2024, in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.
With her arresting good looks, infectious laugh and silver-blonde hair, Johanna ter Woort commanded attention. Twice, she even graced the front page of Canada’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star.
In 1967 the Toronto Star wrote a piece highlighting the absurdity of the public outcry stirred by Johanna allowing her children – Lisa, then just 2-1/2, and Marc, 18 months, to play naked on the beach. The outrage at this behaviour, which went against societal norms of the time, led police to serve the family with repeated summonses.
To illustrate the story, the Star’s Bob Olsen photographed a bikini-clad Johanna with her “two tiny outlaws” splashing in the water of Lake Ontario.
The second came when a photographer captured an iconic image of the Dutch-born beauty kissing Liberal leader Pierre Elliott Trudeau at the height of Trudeaumania, the weeks of heady excitement during his first Prime Ministerial campaign.
Born in the city of Almelo in the Netherlands, Johanna immigrated to Canada in the 1960’s to marry Martin ter Woort, whom she had met in high school.
The couple moved to Toronto Island, and then to the blue-and-white house that they bought for $500 in the mid-sixties on Ward’s Island.
Johanna played a mean game of tennis; although she was ambidextrous, she was a leftie on the court and had a killer backhand.
In the early 1970’s the family moved to the Beaches, where they hosted legendary parties and Johanna kept guests entertained with her fascinating stories, sparkling eyes and room-filling presence. She loved listening to music and was a devout fan of artists who wrote great lyrics, from Gordon Lightfoot and Cat Stevens to Don Maclean
Water was a constant in Johanna’s life. From her earliest days in Canada until their end, she always lived within walking distance of Lake Ontario.
A gifted linguist who was fluent in Dutch, English, French and Spanish, she read all the greatest works in those languages in the original and loved Greek mythology.
Indeed, she was a voracious consumer of the written word in every form and followed politics at all levels: international, national and local.
Johanna was a born optimist with a highly developed sense of social justice who never shrank from a battle she thought was just.
She was the first woman on the Committee of Adjustment in Toronto and in the 1980’s, when she moved to Cobourg, actively campaigned for the preservation of its beautiful historical buildings.
She became well-known in her newly adopted town for penning scorching Letters to the Editor in the local newspaper that highlighted the issues that mattered to her, such as the sudden imposition of leash laws in a park popular with dog walkers.
Dogs mattered to Johanna. She had a succession of them, all long-lived and well-loved: from Alphie and Bear, to Weejai and Ariel.
Indeed, she loved all living things. She raised a young horse, was a passionate and creative gardener and was at her happiest sitting in the sun, surrounded by children and animals.
She named her beloved cottage Bocage, which commanded a view of Lake Ontario, after the peculiarly French landscape that mixed patches of woodland and heath, fields and hedgerows. There she stayed until the very end.
Johanna’s legacy is a considerable one. It can be found in the humanity, kindness, generosity of spirit, innate optimism and love of nature that she passed on to her children and grandchildren.
Marc’s last visit to my mother two days before Mother’s Day. He went and picked up a bottle of wine. The wine he chose that day was called high road. He then went to a local restaurant where the food is great and the staff are better than great. He got the salmon dish and the chicken dish to go and brought them to his moms. They shared the meals and a glass of wine. Marc told her that they have something to celebrate today, that they accomplished something special together today. Johanna, with a bit of a confused face said sure let's celebrate and asked what they are celebrating. Marc leaned over and said that after many years they can now put their family name and the high road in the same sentence. Who would think for under 20 bucks they can take the high road. Marc said he was going to call the ambulance to come over as someone was busting a gut. And they laughed some more.
It was a special visit and our last words to each other were I love you. I am going to miss my mom so much.
Johanna is survived by sisters Ria Moch and family in Pottsville, Australia, and Tini Bekker and family in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, daughter Lisa ter Woort, son Marc ter Woort, grandchildren Jonathan, Amy, Rachel, Charlie, and great grandson, James.
Johanna’s wishes were to have her ashes scattered off the Ward’s Island beach where she used to suntan and frolic with her young children.
Scattering will take place at a later date.
A shout out to Len and Tim Burd who inspired Marc to help his mom in her last few years by the way they handled their aging mothers and went above and beyond.

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Miriam Mutton - June 18, 2024

Johanna, an amazing woman of strength, leadership, love and determination. Her smile lit up a room. Condolences to her family and friends on your loss.

Peter Schmitz - June 14, 2024

Tot Zeins: I remember the debacle of child nudity in the Toronto Star 60s article: it was a time! I didn't know your mom, but I am also an immigrant from Holland. We arrived in 1952. My condolences to you both. Peter

Johanne Mainville Loken - June 14, 2024

All my condolences to the family. She was an extraordinary woman, very European, above the average and understood natural justice. My husband and I enjoyed her visits and we had the pleasure to be her guests at the Port Hope castle of Ste Anne dining room, for a very special family celebration.