Losing our Virtignia

On March 31st, a dear friend and sister was taken from us, and a beautiful voice was silenced. For those of you who only knew her via her blog, you know that Renelle had stage 4 cancer. She was taken from us on that fateful day with her loving daughters Julie and Jessica (see pic below) by her side as well as her husband, her “rock”, Franco.

hatfranco rock

We had become accustomed to “hearing” that voice in daily emails and in her blog, “Losing my Virtiginy”.  Now there is a terrible sense of loss–a loss we can only deal with by writing this last blog post. We will never, ever forget Renelle but this may help to bring closure.

Who are we?  We are Jo-Anne, Renelle’s sister, and Dennis, Jo-Anne’s partner.  We loved Renelle and Virtignia, hated Roamin Carcinoma, and were proud to be part of the “good cells” in the blog.  So now we offer our voices, not to replace Renelle’s, but to honour her memory with our memories.

Dennis:  My very first memory of Renelle is of a witty wordsmith who could toss out bon mots and wisecracks almost without thinking.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to hear some of these witticisms because Jo-Anne would start laughing (and I mean guffawing) before Renelle would finish.  Sisterly connection there, I think.really funny

Jo-Anne: Guilty as charged. I would start laughing before she was finished talking, knowing what she what going to say (which was funny) or knowing that it was GOING to be funny. Renelle had a way of attracting people to her. She made them instantly feel at ease and that she was their friend. She volunteered at 2 old age homes, going there once a week to sing for the “old folks”. She had a wonderful singing voice and would sing their favourites. She also had stories about the people in the home – one of them having to do with a set of maracas that an elderly lady didn’t want to give back to her.


Dennis: Renelle’s singing for people who had little in the way of entertainment in their lives was an example of her giving nature.  She was also an emotional woman, and would cry often, frequently because she was happy.  She cried when she learned of the impending marriages of her daughters, when she found out she was going to be a grandmother, and when she was able to pick the name of her yet-unborn grandson.  At my first meeting with her, Renelle sang a song she had written for Franco, and cried through most of it.  I found her emotionality very endearing.


Jo-Anne: Renelle and I shared a love of reading. As a librarian, I was always so pleased when I suggested a book title and she told me she had put it on reserve at her local library. I was even more pleased when she told me she had really liked a book that I too had enjoyed. As you know, Renelle would sometimes ask advice of Virtignia.

Renelle: “Virtidge – what’s the big deal about 50 Shades of Grey? I has 500 holds on it at the library!”

Vitidge: “ Er – you might not want to go there…”

Dennis:  Among the many things Renelle  loved—her family, singing, going for walks with Franco and her friend Paulette, knitting, writing, etc, was a love of wine, especially white wine.  Last year in May when I visited with her and Franco, Renelle and I shared a nice white wine, and we got into some karaoke, singing many old favourites and having a great time while Franco, in his gentlemanly way, politely watched and listened while I provided off-key harmony to Renelle’s beautiful vocals.  I felt it was like fingerpainting over a Rembrandt, but it was much fun for both of us. A bittersweet moment I won’t forget.

Jo-Anne: As mentioned above, I got very close to my sister during her illness via many many emails. I felt comforted (being 4,376 kms  away – I Google mapped it) that she was being honest with me about every aspect of her treatment. She INFORMED me and not COMPLAINED to me – big difference. She gave her cancer a name, Roman Carcinoma, so that she could kick it in the ass but he proved to be too vicious an adversary as it has unfortunately been the case for millions. We all have a “cancer story”. For me, this one just struck a little too close to home. For the rest of my life, there will not be a day that goes by when something as innocuous as seeing a hummingbird, brings back memories of her and what the world lost the day she was taken from us. Renelle – I love you. Rest in peace little sis knowing that you made a difference in this world to all those who crossed your path.



Like Renelle used to do, we wanted to include a song at the end of the blog. Lastly, I know that she was grateful to René who sent her tunes “to sooth the soul”.


3 thoughts on “Losing our Virtignia

  1. Thank you for posting this. It puts some closure to the profound sadness and sense of loss that I am sure so many are experiencing. Personally speaking, your memories have helped trigger many many positive memories that I too have of Renelle. I think the only way Renelle deserves to be remembered is with smiles on our faces, remembering her kind caring nature, her zany sense of humour, her amazing musical talents and the fact that she so readily shared them and most influential upon me, her ability to see every wine glass not as half empty but as half full……then top it up and savour it.
    Thanks again and best wishes, Brian Jones

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, I only knew Renelle through the Library book club but always enjoyed her comments. I will miss seeing her at book club, it was obvious that she was a very special lady. It was hard to believe that she was at the Fri. book club just days before passing. I also enjoyed reading her blog, she definitely did have a zany sense of humour. God Bless her family, Adalene

  3. Beautiful blog Jo and Dennis,and a fantastic visit, I am re energized to get better and stronger each day.i think of Renelle each and every day and miss her tremendously.

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