Whistler's Lillian Goldsmid, a tireless volunteer with countless organizations, known to generations of schoolchildren as Nana G and recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubillee Medal, passed away Friday (Sept. 27). She was 90 years old.
Goldsmid earned the highest praises in the community first with a Citizen of the Year award in 2002, followed by the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal last February for her community involvement. Daughter Leslee Wake said while her mother appreciated the sentiment, it was the actions for which she received that praise that gave her the most satisfaction.
“She loved life and she loved people. That was her whole life, really, giving to others.”
Goldsmid, a Western Canadian downhill champion in the mid-40s, moved to Whistler in 1967 with her husband Howard, becoming a fulltime resident in 1987. Having sold their butcher shops in Vancouver, Lillian almost immediately immersed herself in the volunteer role for which she became so well known. After raising their two children, Leslee and Bruce, in a life filled with outdoor recreation, as the Goldsmids grew older they remained in Whistler as many of their friends returned to Vancouver or retired on the Sunshine Coast. Lillian was an active skier well into her 80s.
Known simply as Lil throughout the community, Goldsmid is remembered this week for her commitment to a number of organizations as a volunteer, but none more so than the elementary schools in which she regularly read stories to first and second graders. It was a treasured activity of more than 20 years, which earned her the name Nana G from countless school children.
Susan Christopher, a teacher at Myrtle Phillip Community School, said that in 19 years of visiting her classroom Goldsmid, routinely regarded children with compassion and curiosity. The children would line up for hug as Goldsmid asked each one how they were doing. “She enriched the lives of many children while they read stories or played cards,” Christopher said. “I will always remember the love that she gave to all of us.”
Last year Goldsmid told The Question that because many of the children's grandparents don't live in Whistler, visiting with them was a way to help children stay connected with elderly people, but also she with them.
“The young people keep us young, that's why I try to spend as much time around them as I can,” she said.
Goldsmid also volunteered her time with the Whistler Community Services' Re-Use-It depot, and raised funds for the Public Library by picking, sorting and selling the municipality's spent spring-bulb plantings.
Many will remember her for the work she offered to Whistler Food Bank once every week. Last year the couple held a fundraising event for the food bank in celebration of their 65th wedding anniversary.
“What Lil was particularly skilled at was connecting with people and caring about people,” said food bank coordinator Sara Jennings. “At a food bank that's a really important quality. She had a way of chatting with each person, whether they were young or old, she didn't pass any judgment and was just super friendly and wanted to know about them.”
Jennings added that the other volunteers also benefitted from Goldsmid's presence, if not through her assistance and conversation, through a simple act of raising morale with home-baked goods and freshly-made tea.
Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden offered condolences to Goldsmid's family, singling out the 65th anniversary fundraiser as an exemplary act of selflessness by a woman who had already given so much to those around her.
“That kind of community dedication and volunteerism is really admirable … a really lovely person and she will be missed.”
Goldsmid has requested there be no memorial service for her. In lieu of flowers she asked that donations be sent to the Salvation Army.
Lil Goldsmid passed away peacefully at Vancouver General Hospital last Friday (Sept. 27). She is survived by her husband Howard, daughter Leslee (Tim) and son Bruce (Karine), and three grandchildren, Lonnie, Ali and Glenn.