The visionary trailblazer, mentor, promoter, leader, neighbour and friend, died March 13
To better understand the unique personality of Donna Scott and to bring her contribution to Canada and Niagara-on-the-Lake into better perspective, The Lake Report asked a few of her closest friends and colleagues to share some memories.
Together these thoughts paint a vibrant, colourful picture and help us understand who she was and why she is so revered by so many Canadians, in so many different walks of life.
Debi Pratt, this year’s Spirit of Niagara’s Citizen of the Year, knew Donna for over 30 years. She met Donna shortly after she moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“I met Donna when I worked at Inniskillin Winery,” Pratt remembers. “Donna was proud of Niagara-on-the-Lake. When ever she and Hugh (Farrell) had a party or were hosting people from out of town, she would include Inniskillin wines in the gathering.
“Donna would always say how proud she was of Niagara-on-the-Lake. She wanted to show off her new community.
“Donna was a ground breaker for women in Canadian business. That kind of coincided with my own career. When I got into the wine business it was male-dominated. You had to be credible in what you did.
“She never started a war chant about women having to do this or that. She was simply a role model.
“And I remember her tremendous sense of humour. Delightful conversation. She was very caring about her friends and the people that were in her life.”
Donna’s great friend of almost 50 years, Florence Campbell, a former vice-president of both Queen’s University and the Conference Board of Canada, met Donna when they were both on the board of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs in 1974. They were best friends ever since and have shared Christmas together for over 25 years.
“Donna was a leader. She saw opportunities and pounced on them. Flare (magazine) was her brainchild. When she came to NOTL she saw the need for the St. Mark’s church bells to be refurbished and took leadership of that project. She thought the various historical groups in the area could have a far bigger impact if they collaborated, so she became a leader in the Historical Alliance.
“Donna was a networker. She had access to senior business leaders in Toronto, first in the fashion and beauty world, and then more broadly because of the Financial Post Conferences. Then across Canada in the arts.
“Donna was a connector. Given her impressive network, she didn’t hesitate to introduce people to each other, and she championed her friends’ talents and expertise.”
Terry and Terry Mactaggart were nearby neighbours of Donna’s for all her almost 30-plus years in Old Town.
“We got to know each other during daily walks in the neighbourhood, over the fence,” recalls Terry-She.
“Donna was a mentor. Our daughter was considering a career in magazine publishing. I called Donna and asked if she could give Jennifer her thoughts about the industry. She jumped at the chance.
Terry-He remembers how much fun Donna and her husband, Hugh Farrell, had together. “She was a great friend. And fun to be with. Hugh was a bit of an imp. A great partner. They were fun together.
“But she was also known as a person who rolled up her sleeves and got at things.”
Nadja Lepere, owner of Upper Canada Travel, came to know Hugh and Donna first professionally, helping to satisfy their wanderlust cruising around the world, and later as a great friend.
“She and Hugh loved to cruise and over time they saw most of the world that way. They had pure enjoyment of sailing, but it also broadened their perspective and provided intellectual stimulation.
“We started off in a professional relationship and then we formed a special bond. We became special friends. We had a lot of laughs over a glass of wine.
“She championed everything local that she felt was worth it. She encouraged you. Built you up. She had a real knack of making you feel important.”
In 2013, Donna attended a special event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Laura Secord’s famous walk. At the celebration, Donna met Caroline McCormick, the driving force behind the Friends of Laura Secord and the effort to give Laura Secord the recognition she deserved.
That chance meeting was a spark that formed a deep and abiding respect and friendship between the two women.
Over the intervening years, they met regularly, with Donna acting as a mentor for many of the activities of the organization. Donna became the unofficial chair of the National Advisory Committee.
“I Googled her and said: ‘Wow’. I was really impressed with her accomplishments as a businesswoman.
“She reminded me of Laura Secord. They were both trailblazers.
“Donna loved and admired Laura Secord and what she represented. She always said Canada needs a hero. And it should be Laura Secord.
“I’m only sorry we didn’t get a chance to have Donna lead the effort to bring the story of Laura Secord to schoolchildren across Canada. It was her idea. We just ran out of time.”
For more than seven years, Donna and Jim Garrett, a principal of Garrett Insurance, worked together, tirelessly spearheading the drive to raise funds from Niagara-on-the-Lake in support of the new Niagara Health System hospital in St. Catharines.
At weekly meetings, the co-chairs built the campaign from the ground up, finally surpassing the initial goal, raising $2.8 million for the new facility.
“What a blessing Donna was,” says Garrett. “She was powerful and connected. I knew the local scene and Donna literally knew everyone else. She was a spitfire in everything she did.
“She is irreplaceable. What she did for Canadian women, was such an inspiration. What she pioneered has improved society.
“I will miss her. That’s what I would like to say to her.”
Along with so many others, both near and far.