Stage actress Mary Haney quietly passed away at home Monday, February 24, 2020 surrounded by friends and family, overwhelmed by the ravages of cancer.

         May flights of angels sing her to her rest.

         Dear Mary was born December 16, 1954 in Welland, Ontario and raised there and in Cornwall, Saint John, New Brunswick, Hamilton and Toronto along with brothers John and Christopher.

         Mother Sheila was a war bride who sailed to Canada in 1946 and went on to become one of this country’s finest stage actors.  With eccentric flare she mentored and directed Mary to follow in her footsteps, starting backstage as a dresser at the Stratford Festival then on to graduate at the age of 17 from the National Theatre School in Montreal.

         “We’re more friends than mother and daughter,” Mary said in a mischievous 1983 joint interview for the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

          To underline their relationship the newspaper’s theatre critic wrote:

          “Sometimes they have their differences … It didn’t faze Mary that her mother was vague about the year of her birth:

                                             Mary:  “I was born in 1954.”
                                             Mother Haney:   “You were?”

         Shades of Oscar Wilde to be sure.

         Her journalist father Jack was a news director at a string of small-town radio stations, hence the family’s nomadic, loud, exciting lifestyle during the 1960s and 70s filled with up and coming reporters, past their prime radio and television personalities and hammy, campy theatre folks.

         There were few dull moments.

         Inspired by Maggie Smith, Judy Dench and Pat Galloway, feisty and irrepressible Mary appeared in theatres across Canada and in the United States, highlighted by five seasons at Stratford under the reign of John Hirsch and thirty as a member of the Shaw Festival company.

         Mary tread the boards with and studied the techniques of this country’s finest-veterans like Douglas Campbell, Amerlia Hall, Tony van Bridge, Kate Reid and Butch Blake.  She laughed, joked and was friends with all – “out front” ushers, bartenders, ticket takers and house managers; backstage prop folks, dressers, set designers and crews.  She stared at and learned from all of them, stockpiling in her already rich memory bank an unusual shuffle here, a doddering attitude there, a peculiar hand gesture, or a fresh accent to use in a future play.  Others mannerisms and quirks were here bread and butter.

         And there was always a “Hi, monkey,” to anyone who glanced her way.

         Stories of her quick wit abound.

         For example, one hot Monday afternoon while keeping score with Butch Blake at the annual Stratford-Shaw Cricket Match she pointed toward the pitch, cleared her throat and whispered in his good ear, “You know I’ve messed around with both out there.”
         “Both what?,” Butch asked.

         Shaw’s Artistic Director Christopher Newton once said, “Mary was an enchanting actor whether in intense drama – her terrified face on the TV screen in ‘Saint Joan’ will stay with all of us who saw the production – or in high comedy – watching her fall asleep starting with her right eye in ‘The Cassilis Engagement’ was a moment of the highest comic genius.”

         She was a proud shareholder in the board game ‘Trivial Pursuit’ founded and developed by two friends and her brothers.  There’s no reason to doubt her claim that over forty years ago she contributed three questions to their Genus Edition.  They were:

         What did the Wicked Witch of the West write in the sky in ‘The Wizard of Oz’?
                                            Surrender Dorothy
         How many ghosts appeared before Ebenezer Scrooge in 1951’s ‘A Christmas Carol’?
         What was the last line in the 1939 movie classic ‘Gone With the Wind’?

         Despite the pain suffered the days and nights before her passing, as was said of her portrayal of Juno in the Shaw Festival’s 2014 ‘Juno and the Peacock’, Mary didn’t ask for sympathy or look as if she would accept it if given to her.  Worn out, she “retained her determination, took things as they came and kept the will to make matters better.”

         She leaves behind brother John, his wife Velvet, their children Justine, Alex, Garlande and David and brother Christopher’s (who passed away in 2010) children John, Tom and Shelagh and their mother Sarah.

         Heartful thanks to Dr. Eric Thomas, to the Victorian Order of Nurses and to all the Monkeys who cared for Mary during her final days.

         Mary’s ashes will be interred with her mom’s alongside her maternal grandparents later this year at the 11th century St. Mary’s Church, Shoreham-by-Sea, England.

         Donation in Mary’s name can be sent to Stratford’s Performing Arts Lodge (PAL).

         Drop in between 2 and  5 p.m. Saturday, February 29, at Foster’s Inn, Stratford, to celebrate what has truly been a life well lived.

         The answer to dearest Mary’s third TP question as she waves farewell and exits upstage centre to a final round is:


Once you have completed the above form, click “Submit” to send it to W.G. Young Funeral Home. The funeral home will place a memorial card with the family.

Your cheque can be mailed to:
W.G. Young Funeral Home
430 Huron Street
Stratford, Ontario N5A 5T7

Please make cheque payable to the charity you have selected

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