Katherine Bell (1974-2023): A Tribute

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Katherine and Brandon at a work training event in April of 2019.

Sometimes we don’t realize how special someone was until we lose them. Other times, it seems we knew all along. On May 7, we lost someone who was a very important part of North Dundas life. Judging by the messages of condolence that have been pouring in online, she meant far more to the community than she likely ever realized. 

Katherine Bell was a resident of North Dundas before North Dundas even existed. She grew up on Levere Road between Winchester and South Mountain. She always joked that she had a “South Mountain accent”, often using certain phrases and pronouncing things in ways that could best be described as “proudly redneck”. She grew up alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway line, and had a childhood fear that robbers would jump off the train in the middle of the night and snatch her. Of course, in the hindsight of adulthood, she found this amusing. Katherine often liked to tell stories about her parents, Tom and Carol, and her brother, Mike. She would also talk at length about decades of adventures with her best friend, Heather. 

Katherine described herself as mostly agreeable as a child, but like most people, she had a few moments in childhood of which she was not proud. One such moment was breaking into the abandoned church which sits at the corner of Levere Road and Development Road. She also liked to share stories of the various stores in Winchester that she and her mother would visit, including one that was owned by a close relative of hers, perhaps her grandfather. I wish I could recall his name. 

Talking to Katherine within the borders of North Dundas guaranteed two things: 1) A free local history lesson, and 2) Hearing the biographies of many, many locals. There was never any sense of “important vs unimportant people” with Katherine. Everyone mattered to her. They were all her neighbours, and she worked hard to see the good in every single one of them.

Katherine leaves behind two children who she valued more than anything else in the world. Nick is a young adult, and Sam is 12. There was no subject of conversation that came up more than her children. She put endless time and energy into making sure that they felt loved. She also took the time to correct her mistakes, and was never afraid to ask questions to help her be a better parent. 

After living in a few places, Katherine moved back to North Dundas, settling in Winchester in 2019. I came to know her briefly in 2016, when working at her son’s school, and then more closely in 2018 when she came to work at Winchester Public School, where we worked together for about 3.5 years. She and I also cared for some neighbourhood children privately when the pandemic struck in 2020. She was a good friend who helped me through many struggles. 

Besides caring for their children, a lot of people in town may also recognize Katherine as the friendly face who delivered their Foodland groceries each week. Katherine wore her Foodland uniform with pride, and since she was a people person, she cherished every opportunity to stay connected during her deliveries. She saw people as community members first, and customers second. 

I am sad to say that Katherine and I had not talked much this past year. Me working long hours, and her dealing with health issues, caused us to drift apart. I am grateful that she had the love and support of her partner, Mark, in her final months. Even as new educators eased into big shoes that they could never hope to fill, Katherine still made the effort to come to the school and visit the Winchester PS kids a few times, with cheers of “Katherine!” resonating throughout Winchester each time the kids spotted her. Caring was Katherine’s specialty, and that is something that leaves an impression on kids that they never forget. The tears that were shed by many, many children at school in the days following her passing speak volumes about the positive relationships that she formed with so many youth. That is a legacy that will have these young people telling “Katherine stories” for decades. 

I recall one conversation with Katherine, a couple of years ago when the Township was running the “Meet Your Neighbour” series of articles featuring local people who have made positive impacts in the community. Katherine told me that she would really like to be nominated for a “Meet Your Neighbour” article one day. Well… here it is. Katherine was a friend, a mentor, a healer, and a jokester. She will always be remembered as an amazing mother, sister, partner, educator, delivery person, and a treasured North Dundas neighbour. She may be gone, but she will never leave the hearts and souls of those who knew her, and the North Dundas community will never stop sharing fond stories of her. Once a neighbour, always a friend. Rest in peace, Katherine.  

3 COMMENTS

  1. Beautiful story very well written. I worked with Katherine at startek and she was a beautiful person inside and out. She is missed by her startek family as well. So many people on the startek alumni page gave their condolences and shared what a wonderful person she was. You article has been posted there too.

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