By Matt Kwong
As the late afternoon sunlight fades, Iain Gardner sits alone in the kitchen smoking a cigar in the dark, He touches a photo of his wife.
“You must understand, this woman meant the world to me,” he says, his eyes welling-up, evidence of the past few turbulent days. He ashes his cigar and sits silently, watching the trails of smoke. The hymn-like theme from Sibelius’ Finlandia Symphony softly plays on a loop in the background. The same song was played just 18 months earlier on his wedding day.
On the morning of March 28, Patricia Anne Morrison dropped her 150year old daughter Keaton off at school early for a school trip to see the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. After saying goodbye, Morrison, a Ryerson business management professor, went for a stroll along the shore of Lakeview Park in Oshawa.
Hours later, police tape lined the beach where Morrison was discovered drowned. Durham Regional Police say they found no evidence of foul play. She was 53.
Those close to Morrison say she enjoyed Roman poetry, specifically Virgil. She’s been described as a private person who kept mostly to herself.
Her husband said she played the violin and enjoyed the odd glass of Australian red wine, but above all else she was a mother.
“Keaton was the key person in Pat’s life,” says Gardner. “She would have walked on water for that kid.”
One time Morrison promised to get a present for her daughter even though she was swamped with paperwork. The next afternoon, she brought home a kitten – Sprinkles – to Keaton’s delight.
To business management professor Jane Monro – who shared an office with Morrison for two years – it was clear that Keaton was the centre of her colleague’s life.
“Pat was, indeed, always a very private person,” recalls Monro. “But when she was talking about Keaton and what she was up to, she shared more.”
One time, Morrison was telling her how difficult it was when Keaton, who was at the toddler stage of staggering, wanted to run down a little slope.
“Pat was so torn between letting her try her wings and wanting to make sure that she was protected from falling if her legs couldn’t keep up with her body.” In the end, Morrison simply crossed her fingers and ran behind her daughter, ready to pick her up and hug her if she fell.
Gardner says Morrison was truly committed to doing the best she could for the two people she loved most. When she fell in love with Gardner (who was unable to move from Scotland), she decided she would stay in Canada so as not to uproot Keaton from her friends and the rest of the family. She travelled between the two countries during holidays.
Morrison received her Bachelor of Arts and Honours in English and Latin from the University of Western Ontario in 1972.
In 1973, Morrison went on to earn her master’s in Latin from Western and became a chartered accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario in 1976.
She was also known for her sense of humour – a saving grace during her years as a supervising auditor at Price Waterhouse’s Scarborough office in the late ‘70s recalls Sylvia Smith, one of Morrison’s former co-workers. Smith said Morrison’s ability to pacify an uncooperative client during a joint audit helped get them both through the day.
“It was her good sense of humour – that was her style. She never really got overly excited and she was able to to deal with a difficult situation with a nice manner that helped address the problem,” Smith said, “Patricia was very quiet, but I remember we laughed a lot when we worked together.”
In 1986, Morrison began teaching accounting courses at Ryerson’s School of Business Management – a job she held for 18 years.
“We lost a brilliant friend,” reflects fellow accounting instructor Vince Cappelli. “She was a person who always tried to help everyone. She was always asking if your class was OK, if the day you were teaching was okay, if you had any other problems.”
For years, the two met every second week for a bite to eat before class. On many occasions, Morrison left dinner early to meet a student who needed extra help.
“I will definitely miss her,” he adds. “When you meet regularly and it stops and you know that it will not resume – that will be hard.”
John Love, a director of business management in the Continuing Education division at Ryerson saw Morrison as a mentor when he started teaching in 2001.
“She being a very seasoned instructor and, of course, myself being relatively new – I looked forward to always getting some advice from her,” says Love. “She was always willing to share ideas on student issues and accounting issues. She was just extremely bright.”
Morrison and Gardner were married on Oct. 23, 2002. She walked down the aisle wearing the Scottish kilt Gardner’s neighbour made for her.
“She was third-generation Canadian but she was very proud of her Scottish heritage,” Gardner explains. “A kilt-maker who lived across the street from me in Edinburgh organized one for me to give to Pat, and it fit beautifully,” says Gardner.
A year-and-a-half later, the Finlandia symphony was played again as Morrison’s casket was lowered to the earth.
In order to preserve the memory of happier times during last Thursday’s funeral service in Oshawa, Gardner also requested that Morrison be dressed in the kilt she wore on their wedding day.