Teresa Dellar, the executive director and co-founder of the West Island Palliative Care Residence, has passed away at the age of 58.
The pioneer of end-of-life care died early Monday morning at the Royal Victoria Hospital after a long battle with cancer.
“Her loss is as terrible as it is difficult to accept,” the organization said. “She leaves an immeasurable mark on palliative care in our community, across the country and beyond.”
The West Island Palliative Care Residence has been praised by many as exemplary when it comes to providing care to terminally ill patients. It has helped more than 4,400 people end their lives in comfort.
Dellar was at the forefront of that effort and helped found the residence in 1998. As a pioneer in the field, she was known for helping individuals and families during some of the most difficult moments of their lives.
Rhonda O’Gallager, the former president of the residence’s foundation, says the entire organization is saddened by Dellar’s passing. While Dellar was in the hospital, she was still working tirelessly to help those in need.
“She was a real force to be reckoned with,” she said. “And I say that in the most positive of senses.”
Her love for helping others started early. Dellar held both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from McGill University. After becoming a bereavement facilitator, she worked at the Lakeshore General Hospital with a specialty in oncology social work before the residence opened its doors in 2002.
Dellar made it acceptable to talk about dying — while also addressing an unmet need in her community by fighting to provide palliative care, according to O’Gallagher.
“Teresa was present and available to every single one of those patients and all of their families,” she said.
Global News Senior Anchor Jamie Orchard says Dellar’s warmth, compassion and humour immediately drew in the people who were fortunate enough to meet her.
Dellar will not only be missed by the community as a whole, Orchard says, but by her two sons, Nicholas and Jonathan, and her husband Gavin.
“She had so much more to give, and it is utterly devastating to lose her at such a young age, particularly as she was fighting so hard to stay with them,” said Orchard.
Over the years, Dellar has been repeatedly recognized for her efforts — including winning the Montreal Council of Women’s Woman of the Year award in 2005 and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. As a pillar of the West Island, she was also awarded the Canada 150 community service award in 2017.
For former Quebec MNA Geoffrey Kelley, Dellar brought comfort to his family. Both his parents were in the residence’s care and he says Dellar went above and beyond to make the last days of terminally ill patients meaningful.
“She had a gift of making those days magic, special,” he said, adding that her death is a great loss for the community.
The residence says it will provide more details in the coming days to the community.
“The world has lost a true angel,” said the residence.
— With files from Global News’ Karen Macdonald