A woman of the world. A small-town girl

Sept 2023
Tima Steinberg and Ellen Hollend

Quiet. Fastidious. Warm.  Caring. Professional. Contributor. Helper. Organizer. Learner. Wife, mother, friend. A woman of the world. A small-town girl.

Cecile was all of these things and more.   A true woman of the community—a Hamilton community she called home for more than 57 years. 

Cecile was born in London, Ontario.  The youngest daughter, the third out of four children, she was surrounded by her huge and lively family from London and nearby St. Thomas. Cecile’s mother ensured her house and dinner table were open to all, including soldiers returning from the war. The daughter of a pawnbroker, she learned the value of a dollar—and was always eager to give a hand up to those who were in need.   

Our mother had more pens, pads of paper and personalized return envelope stickers from organizations she donated to.  She never met a charity she didn’t love and she championed fundraising. While asking for money from others makes many uncomfortable, our mother was never afraid to canvas others to donate to causes.  She was a committee person—involved with the PTA, Beth Jacob Synagogue, UJA, Hamilton Jewish Federation, United Israel Appeal, and the list goes on.  We always admired how our parents constantly gave their time and their energy ensuring the community ran the way it should. It was normal for our mother to be out in the evenings attending a committee meeting after she spent a day at work.

Cecile was passionate about her career as a psychometrist at McMaster Hospital, and proud of the education she sought and the road she took to practise her profession, balancing work and family, and it is no coincidence that she chose a profession where she could help and care for others.

 She and our father travelled to Israel on various missions, taking the time to get to know the country and to instill their love of Israel and Judaism in their family home. Their travels didn’t stop in Israel. Our parents spent a few weeks every year travelling to a different country after the High Holy Days, becoming citizens of the world. Judaism was a driving force in Cecile’s life. Keeping a kosher home, belonging to a synagogue and being involved in the community was always paramount in her life.  Sending us to Beth Jacob Hebrew School was a priority and sending us to Jewish summer camp was a true gift as our Mom was never given the opportunity.  Cecile was second to none in bringing family and friends together during the Jewish holidays. She set the table as if to welcome royalty, her attention to detail and perfection evident with each place setting. Making the best chicken soup was second nature to her, and keeping the family together and connected was equally important. 

While community support was her concern and passion, family is where she loved and cared most deeply.  From a young age, she was tasked to take care of various family members.  While her life wasn’t easy, she took her role of caregiver from childhood to her last days. While she had a fulfilling career and raised two independent daughters, Cecile’s caregiving was a source of pride for her. Young and old —anyone in her family and friend group knew that they could count on our mother in a time of crisis or in a time of joy. She remained close with her cousins, grandchildren, nieces and nephews until the end.

Not one to judge anyone, Cecile was open and understanding of the people around her. She championed egalitarianism, women’s rights, freedom of expression and other human rights when those ideas weren’t exactly popular.   

She and our father shared their perspective on life; they were the perfect complementary couple. David and Cele worked hard and played hard!  Supporters of the arts and of the Blue Jays and every restaurant in town, they were rarely home once the kids moved out. They have been so fortunate to share incredible friends who have been like family to them and to us.

The pandemic slowed them down, but their love of life, family and friends never wavered. More than once, our mother never gave up when she became ill, kept looking forward, kept a positive attitude and a balanced perspective on life. 

Cecile’s legacy lives on in her two daughters and their spouses, five grandchildren, three great grandchildren, friends, family and community, all positively influenced by her giving nature, her care and devotion.

Ellen Hollend and Tima Steinberg are the daughters of Cecile and David Steinberg.