By Kevin Ritchie
In a tearful eulogy, Karol Steinhouse’s long-time friend Larry Hershfield described her house in Deerhurst, Ont. as stewn with sweaty, dirty and wet clothes from days spent sailing, swimming, playing racquetball and hiking. The mess showed her boundless energy, he told the 750 people who attended her funeral last Friday. “Karol did everything.”
Ms. Steinhouse, a social work instructor at Ryerson for 10 years, lived what she taught—that people need to recognize and respect differences among people. The inspiring teacher, advocate for bisexual issues and devoted wife and mother died of internal injuries suffered in a minor car accident on Mount Pleasant Road near Davisville Avenue last Wednesday. She was 47 and leaves behind her husband Ken Macdonald, her son Jesse, 14, and her daughter Danielle, 18.
Ms. Steinhouse wanted people to appreciate diversity, something she passed on to her children.
“It’s like a blessing,” Ms. Steinhouse’s son Jesse said. “It’s like a blessing,” Ms. Steinhouse’s son Jesse said. “I learned so much about diversity, about how to open. I’ve met a lot of different types of people and I have diverse friends. I thank my mother for that.”
In her column, Bi Lines, which she wrote for the lesbian magazine Siren, Ms. Steinhouse praised her son’s acceptance of diversity and told readers how it energized her: “My son is open about his fears for himself as a result of having an ‘out,’ political, queer-bi Mom in an obviously homophobic world. As he enters teen years, there are obvious anxieties. But he clearly separates his own discomfort … from his overt support for me.”
Ms. Steinhouse was attending the University of Toronto part-time pursuing a PhD in sociology and equity studies. She finished her course work and was going to take next year off to write her dissertation—a study of how a bisexual women’s community is created within the gay community.
Ms. Steinhouse also helped from the Biexual Women of Toronto group five years ago, the only group of its kind in Toronto. Dana Shaw, who has been involved with the group for 10 months, said she aspires to be as confident a bisexual woman as Ms. Steinhouse was.
Last October, the group threw a pajama party to give members the “teenaged girl pajama party” experience many missed out on as kids. The women stayed awake until 2 a.m., asking each other personal questions and piggin out on candy. “It was the first time I’d seen her not as a facilitator,” Shaw said.
Macdonald said he had a unique relationship with his wife. Ms. Steinhouse created the word comperfion, which means feeling happy when else is happy. Macdonald said. “She worked toward that. Even if that meant someone she loved also being with someone else.”
The warmth of her personality was also felt by her students, many of whom attended her funeral at Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel on Steeles Avenue West.
“She wasn’t just a teacher,” said Susanna Cristoforo, a second-year social work student. “She was one of us.”
Ayah Victoria McKhail, also a second-year social work student, said many students gave up on social work after first year, but Ms. Steinhouse rekindled their interests. Steinhouse often called on a Sunday afternoon. McKail said, just to see how she was doing.
A memorial service for Ms. Steinhouse will be held Monday in Oakham House at 5:30 p.m.