The funeral of speechwriter and former journalist Elaine O’Farrell, who drowned in Mexico while vacationing with her family in February, is due to take place in Gatineau, Que., on Saturday.
O’Farrell was 61 when she died while snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea on February 19, 2022. A press release issued by her family said no trauma or other physiological cause played a role. a role in his death.
“She just got into trouble underwater and escaped while watching a large group of stingrays in about 15 feet of water,” the statement read.
Doug Hoover, her husband of 30 years, said she loves swimming. The family lives on the Ottawa River – where O’Farrell would pick up the kayak and meet up with friends by the water.
Hoover said her solo adventurous style carried over while they were in Mexico.
“She would just say, I’m going for a swim…then in a few hours she’d come back and she’d tell me who she met, what she did,” Hoover said.
The two were looking to buy a house near Puerto Morelos in Mexico before his death.
For O’Farrell’s colleague, Erin Seller, the hardest part of O’Farrell’s death was that she was talking more about retirement and was about to start a new phase of life. .
“She was so excited for her daughters and her future grandchildren and they were going to have a new puppy and had this big extended trip to Mexico,” Seller said. “I’m just disappointed for his family. They were deprived of that.”
O’Farrell made friends everywhere
“I had it for 30 years. I don’t know how I got it in the first place. I feel blessed and lucky and 300 years wouldn’t have been enough,” Hoover said.
The two met in 1990 in Edmonton, when Hoover was a law student and O’Farrell was working at a local newspaper.
Hoover was at a bar with a friend who wanted to leave.
“And I said, no, we can’t leave. And I pointed at her and said, ‘because I’m going to marry this girl.'”
Their first date was at a Fringe Festival event that O’Farrell was reviewing and three weeks later they were engaged. The couple moved to Aylmer, Quebec shortly thereafter where their two daughters, Samantha and Zoe Hoover were born.
Hoover remembers his wife as “spirited…but extremely passionate.”
“The most remarkable thing I always saw in her was her ability to quickly make friends wherever she went.”
Journalist turned speechwriter
O’Farrell worked for various newspapers, including the Edmonton Sun, Maclean’s magazine, The Canadian Press and the Ottawa Citizen, before turning to communications.
Eventually, she became a speechwriter, most recently for Health Canada, where she wrote internal government speeches for Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, among others.
“The pandemic has served to underscore the importance of good communication in protecting the health of Canadians and supporting our workforce,” Tam said in a statement.
“In this way, Elaine has been key to our efforts…her personality and drive have been a positive addition.”
Mackenzie Scott, got to know her aunt much better in the summer of 2021, when Scott was transitioning from working as a journalist to a graduate program in communications. The former CBC reporter describes her as “a five-foot firecracker.”
“I was quite nervous about this transition, whether I was making the right decision. And she really encouraged me and, I guess in a way, was a bit of a mentor.”
Colleagues remember his wild stories, sharp editing
O’Farrell left his cup of coffee all over the office, but was never without a bottle of hot sauce, his colleague Seller said.
Seller worked with O’Farrell for nine years and says she still hears her voice in her head every day, having learned a lot about good writing from her.
“Elaine was always the first to know…She just had contacts everywhere. And for me, I miss that. Elaine was my go-to when I had what I thought was a dumb question.”
Another colleague, Susan Randell, remembers O’Farrell’s wild stories – everything from her daughter’s boyfriend coming over for dinner to “attending” Wayne Gretzky’s wedding across the street as journalist.
“She was also incredibly hip. She always talked about going shopping with Zoe and Sam. She loved a good miniskirt,” Seller said.
Randell said the office band joked about wearing miniskirts at O’Farrell’s celebration of life as a tribute to the woman who wouldn’t have wanted a dark ceremony.
Hoover says some local musical acts that O’Farrell enjoyed watching will be part of the event on Saturday.