Denise Elaine Reinhart (Ryan) was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1952, and has always loved trees.
A long legged, determined, and precocious little girl, she was the darling of her father Eugene Ryan’s eye. Grounded in his keen curiosity for knowledge and conversation, Denise was raised to question, and chase information so that she was armed and ready when she went to battle in any lively discussion. Her mother Alice Ryan (Godfrey) taught her about humility and joy, and growing up Denise could often be found skipping and dancing around their East York neighbourhood, many times with her sister Nancy Ryan, or on her way to visit her grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Hibbert.
Her roots in Toronto gave a ground from which a career in nursing grew. Her natural empathetic nature, and calm, steady disposition set her up well for this job, and she and her best pal Donna Kampman attended nursing school together, making memories that would set up a career, and a lifelong friendship.
As life carried on, and her own tree grew, Denise branched out with her partner and husband David Reinhart, and the pair moved to Chatham Ontario. After a few years working at the former Public General Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital, Denise and Dave welcomed their 3 children, the loves of her life, Christine Beintema (Reinhart), Jennifer Welburn (Reinhart), and Mark Reinhart. Fueled by her own logic and choice, Denise shifted her focus to raising her kids, shaping their perspectives, actively volunteering throughout the community, and managing the home.
Grounded in knowledge, informed by humility, and inspired by her children, Denise grew experiences and beliefs from her branches. She was an original feminist, and she worked tirelessly to raise her kids to defy traditional roles held for men and women, and to not only respect difference, but crave it, and chase it. She read all the time, covered her hands in dirt from her backyard and the family cottage, and spoke to the birds, the squirrels and the trees. She loved to bake, especially with her grandkids Ryan Beintema, Gavin Welburn, and Raina Welburn, who she adored. She searched for the deeper meaning in every situation, never shied away from a political conversation, and when she asked you how you were, she really wanted to know the answer. She opened her arms when her family expanded to include her kids’ partners Alan Welburn, Simon Swanek, and Brandon Beintema, and was a humble and sensitive second Mom to many. She loved the sun, loved to walk, loved the water, and could often be found with her feet kissed by waves.
She was a warrior, fighting the good fight for a compassionate future for us all.
6 short years ago, our brave warrior went to war. Diagnosed with leukemia, Denise armoured up with a relentless sense of fearless determination, and walked head on into her cancer journey. Guided by the tirelessly kind, and compassionately efficient staff at the London Health Sciences Centre, Denise bravely fought. She quickly became known as the walking woman up on C7, as she clocked countless hours walking the halls to the soundtrack of her rolling IV pole and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, waving and grinning at the staff as she motored past them. Her joy, and generosity of spirit, was contagious.
On April 30th, surrounded by family, peacefully at her home, courageous Denise grew tall, and met her friends, the trees in the sky. In the windiness of that day, the tree branches blew, the red-winged blackbirds sang, and the resilience that Denise embodied her whole life found a new home on the rhythms of the wind as they rippled through the air.
She will be terribly missed, and lovingly remembered. Always.
But in soils we will garden, in puddles we will jump, in melodies we will dance, and in waters we will stand, grounded in her compassion, steadied by her resolve, inspired by her fearlessness, and brilliant in the glow of her uncompromising love…and belief in the potential of us all.
“Do not go gently into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
We will rage, walking woman, and keep your light burning, as you rest in power, peace, and freedom.
We love you so much.
Family will be holding a small, private celebration of life in the summertime. If you are looking for a way to honour Denise, here are some suggestions:
– Take a walk for her on a favourite walking path or trail
– Plant a native tree or plant in her memory
– Get your hands dirty in your garden
– Stand at the shore of a lake, and feel the breeze off the water
– Go ask someone how they are, and make time to listen to the whole answer
– Dance to the beat of your own drummer
You can also donate to one of the many charities that she supported, which includes: The Terry Fox Foundation for Cancer Research, and Blood Sweat and Spin, a London Ontario based cycling event that raises money to support blood cancer patients and their families at the London Regional Cancer Program: