Long-time York staff member Irena Singleton dies of cancer

Irena Singleton, a long-time York University lab technician and a dedicated member of the York University Staff Association (YUSA), died on Feb. 6.

Affectionately known as Rena, Ms Singleton fought a six-month battle with an aggressive form of cancer. She leaves behind two daughters, their spouses and two young grandchildren, as well as many friends behind. Ms Singleton’s husband Gerry Singleton, a renowned computer programmer, died May 12, 2007, of cardiac arrest.

Ms Singleton contributed greatly to YUSA and to its members and the University community. A fixture in the Department of Biology in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, Ms Singleton was an active participant in YUSA (or YUSAPUY in its bilingual abbreviation) for 24 years. She served as a steward, a member of the grievance committee, a member of the YUSA Executive Board as first vice-president and Chair of the health & safety committee. Her insistence on keeping York employees healthy and safe resulted in the first Construction Guide for Managers being negotiated with the University. Most recently she served as a member of the nominations committee.

Right: Irena Singleton

"Rena won several awards from the University for her devotion to a safe and healthy workplace for all," said Jane Grant, YUSA second vice-president in an e-mail to the York community. Grant, a biology prep room supervisor in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, worked alongside Ms. Singleton.

"In her work at the University she supported the development of molecular biology, biotechnology and microbiology laboratories in the Department of Biology," said Grant. "She was always rigorous in her approach to her work, and went out of her way to help students understand what they were doing in the laboratory."

Grant said that Ms Singleton will be sorely missed by her colleagues. "Appropriate ways to honour Rena’s memory would be to have a glass of wine with a friend, to remember her while you cry during the last scene of La Boheme while you work in your garden, and to never ignore a situation when a wrong is being done to someone," said Grant. "We all have benefited from Rena’s devotion to her work and to her daily life as a good and kind human being."

Her daughters would also like to thank all those who helped take care of Irena during her illness. A memorial service will be held in the chapel at The Simple Alternative Funeral Centre, 275 Lesmill Road (near highway 401 and Leslie Street) on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 1pm. Please bring your kazoos. A reception will follow. In memory of Irena, donations may be made to the Canadian Cancer Society, the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care or the Freeman Centre for Palliative Care.