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Just before sunrise on September 11th, 2023, June Halvorsen Côté decided that enough was enough and took her leave of this world peacefully at home in Verner, ON.
She was born on September 6, 1952 to the late Viola (née Anderson) and Hendry Halvorsen in the small Scandinavian community of Kipling, ON, and remained connected to it and Kipling Baptist Church at its center her entire life. She was 6th of 13 children, and had a busy childhood milking cows and cutting firewood on the family farm and “Praying inna freek” with her younger siblings or sneaking into the local graveyard with the older ones. One memorable incident led to a broken arm that she bore stoically as all involved tried to hide the fact that they had been playing where they shouldn’t.
One of her early formative experiences was the premature death of her father in a traffic accident when she was 15. She left home shortly thereafter in order to make her own way in the world (and so that her widowed mother would have one less mouth to feed). She was always close with her family (the sisters are a particularly tight bunch, more on that later), throughout her life she remained a complex, loving and practical woman with a strong faith, but who had a habit of consistently bucking convention and who carved out her own particular path at every opportunity.
She is survived by Jean-Claude, her partner-in-crime in questioning everything, (and eventual husband, though that took a while) who she found by picking out the nicest motorcycle at the town dance. She’d often say that he tricked her - shortly after they married, he sold the motorcycle and bought a tractor instead.
Through her final years, she would remain astonished at how good he was in tending to all of the needs brought on by her illness, (including learning to cook!), while he would shake his head in wonderment that she had put up with his foolishness for all these years.
June loved to travel, and memorably took voyages to Hawaii to learn to be a florist, and then Europe before agreeing to be tied down in matrimony.
Though she never wanted children, JC eventually convinced her to give it a go (a fact for which your correspondent is ETERNALLY grateful) and subsequently, her two children Mathieu and Jessica became a source of endless joy and astonishment. Even in her final days, she would “marvel that you’re mine!” whenever her children were within earshot.
Once her career as a professional florist had run its course, June became the proprietor and primary fitter / salesperson of The Lingerie Shoppe, where over the course of 30 years she ensured that the women of the Sudbury region were well-equipped in the area of underthings. She would insist on welcoming ALL women, in ALL stages of their life into that space and providing them the “support” they needed. (She was always fond of such clever turns of phrase).
Further, she expanded on the business by opening The Pink Ribbon Room where she would provide prosthetics (and not infrequently some measure of healing) to women who had undergone mastectomies.
Her work with cancer patients also extended to many years volunteering with Camp Quality Northern Ontario, dedicated to giving a camping experience to children with cancer. CQ eventually created an official role for her as the family coordinator, providing support, comfort, and humanity to the families of the children going through cancer treatments even outside of the camping season.
Speaking of camping, and her connection to family, it needs to be mentioned that shortly after her first child was born, June and three of her sisters (told you this would come back) together bought a family camp. Her children and nephews spent their childhood summers there with the four sisters and their spouses sharing parenting duties, and teaching us “cubs” all of the essentials of rustic life, campfire shenanigans included. Forty years on, we still gather there to live life to its fullest.
In her golden years, she absolutely DELIGHTED in being “Besta” (Norwegian for grandmother) to Viola, Davis, and Magnus. She travelled to England to help set things up for Magnus’ arrival in 2017, and later to visit him in France in March 2020 as the world was about to tip over into madness. Upon facing the uncertainty of travel at the time she said: “I’ve lived a good life, and if it’s my time to go, so be it”. This philosophy, tied closely to her faith, followed her throughout her life, and gave her great comfort in her final days.
Her life will be celebrated at 11:00 on Saturday, September 23rd at the McGuinty funeral home in Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. Though June loved flowers, she would point out that she can’t see them now, so instead, the family has decided that we’d prefer that you bring a branch of brightly coloured fall leaves to the ceremony. In one of June’s favourite traditions, we’ll turn the branches into a wreath, and to ensure the tradition is faithfully followed, when Mom’s not looking, Dad will burn them (burning ceremony to be held later at a family-only event).
If you feel the need to give something, instead of flowers, donations can be forwarded in her name to the Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer.
If you are planning on attending the funeral, June would INSIST that it be a happy occasion, since she would point out that she is very much in a better place now and wants us to honour her memory, not mourn her loss, so dress up! Wear bright colours! Tell jokes and enjoy the company of all the other people that benefited from her indestructible, all encompassing, insurmountable love. Her shining memory will carry us forward through the years and we fully intend to make her send off a good one!
Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer
1375 Regent St Unit #18, Greater Sudbury ON P3E 6K4