Cancer claims life of TCDSB spokesperson after two-year battle

  • June 24, 2011

TORONTO - Beloved mother, friend and “passionate advocate for Catholic education,” Toronto Catholic District School Board spokesperson Mary Jo Deighan died peacefully with her family by her side at Mississauga's Trillium Health Centre on June 17. Mrs. Deighan, 54, battled cancer on and off for the last two years.

Neil MacCarthy, spokesperson for the archdiocese of Toronto, said in an online post that he admired Mrs. Deighan's courage in battling cancer. This came at a challenging time for her and the board. As spokesperson, she fielded tough calls after the board was taken over by the province in 2008.

“During difficult days for the TCDSB, Mary Jo battled not only complex communication issues but her own personal health challenges yet always had time for colleagues and maintained a watching brief on issues as long as was possible,” wrote MacCarthy.

“I can still recall with embarrassment reaching her by cellphone on an 'urgent' matter only to learn that she was in the midst of a chemotherapy treatment, IV in arm and cheerfully reassuring me that it was no problem to call as her treatments went on for the better part of the day and it was an opportunity to catch up on phone calls and e-mails,” McCarthy recalled.

He said Mrs. Deighan approached her role as a ministry.

“Working in Catholic communications presents its own set of great challenges. Yet we are blessed by those we encounter in this field — those who have a passion for their work, see their day-to-day tasks not as a job but a ministry; those who truly believe that faith is infused in the work they do,” he said.

Meanwhile, friends wrote of their loss on an online memorial.

“I vividly remember the warm welcome she gave me with her contagious smile and outgoing, bubbly personality. She was a wonderful people person and knew how to make you feel special,” wrote Rena Panke, an IT technician with the board.

“Mary Jo was an inspiration to all she met and has left a huge void in our hearts.”  

Joyce Burgess of Ennismore, Ont., wrote that Mrs. Deighan was “a great friend, great neighbour and I will never forget the good times we had.”

“A talented and caring professional, I know that Mary Jo has been a great support and assistance to our principals and vice-principals throughout the years and often guided our school administration through times of crisis,” said TCDSB Director of Education Ann Perron.

“Above all she was a compassionate person who maintained a positive outlook. So many loved her and will always value her friendship.”

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