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Shelagh: The Beauty of an Ordinary Life, One Year Later


Even ordinary lives can be extraordinary. That was the animating idea last year when the Star sent a fleet of journalists to cover an unknown woman’s funeral. By dedicating the kind of resources we might devote to a massive breaking news event, we hoped to interview every single person who attended the funeral. In doing so, we wanted to construct a meaningful portrait of the rippled impact one person has on those around them, moving beyond the more obvious fields of work and family and into more textured territory. Our subject, chosen almost at random from the obituary pages, proved to be beyond extraordinary. The inspirational story of Shelagh Gordon’s life, as told through her death, elicited a reader response unprecedented in the recent history of the Toronto Star. On the first anniversary of Shelagh’s funeral, Catherine Porter returns with a 19,000-word eread that includes a new reported essay about a year of grief, over a dozen profiles of Shelagh’s inner circle that have never appeared in the newspaper, an editor’s note, reader response and the original team’s article. The result: a testament to the triumph of seemingly ordinary lives everywhere.



Catherine Porter is a columnist at the Toronto Star with a pesky penchant for writing long features. She sometimes drops her column for a few weeks to delve into a longer project, delivering insightful, carefully-crafted longer reads on things as disparate as schooling in Haiti and traditional Mayan midwives in Guatemala. She has won one National Newspaper Award and been nominated for two others. She lives in East Toronto where, in her free time, she helps run a community farmers’ market. She is happily married with two funny, little kids.  



Star Dispatches ebooks provide readers with exceptional long-form journalism from the Toronto Star newsroom.