Florence Richler

Obituary of Florence Isabel Richler

Florence Isabel Richler (née Wood), 90, died in the early hours of Friday, January 10, 2020 at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, surrounded by her five children. Florence was born on October 19th, 1929, in Montreal. Registered as Gwendolyn Crowe at the Montreal Foundling and Baby Hospital on St. Urbain Street, she was adopted by Albert and Ethel Wood (née Spelling), of Pointe-St-Charles. Her adoptive parents were illiterate, but Florence was born with a love of reading. In WWII, when her older brother Albert wrote letters home from the front, she taught her father to write so that he could answer them. At high school, where she shared piano lessons with Oscar Peterson, her grades earned her a full scholarship to McGill. Ethel forbade her from accepting, and instead sent her to work-at a local Woolworths. There, her unusual beauty and elegance caught the eye of an influential fashion editor who launched her career in modelling. She also took up stage acting, at the Montreal Repertory Theatre, a company that then included Christopher Plummer, William Shatner, and future screenwriter Stanley Mann. Florence and Mann married in 1955 in London, where she was working as a house model for Christian Dior. Best man at the ceremony was Mann’s friend Mordecai Richler (bad call). Her first marriage produced one son (Daniel), but lasted just two years. In 1960 Florence married Mordecai, a union that produced four more children, and spanned 40 gloriously happy years-mostly in London and Montreal. She was Mordecai’s first, most trusted editor and his muse. Shortly after his death in 2001 Florence lost her sight to AMD. But she carried on, uncomplainingly, dividing her time between Montreal and her treasured London. Then in 2009 she relocated to Toronto, where she built a new life and a fresh circle of friends. An autodidact to the very end, neither blindness nor failing hearing could keep her from the activities she loved most: reading, listening to radio programs, attending art galleries, concerts and the theatre. Florence Isabel Richler was pre-deceased by her adoptive brother Albert and sister Muriel, and is survived by her five children (Daniel, Noah, Emma, Martha and Jacob), their spouses (Jill Offman, Sarah Maclachlan, Peter Smith and Lisa Richler), three grandchildren (Max, Simone and Poppy Richler) and three step-grandchildren (Sophie and Nathalie Marsh, and Nicholas Wookey). The Richler family would like to thank the doctors and nurses of St. Michael’s for collectively doing their valiant best. A funeral service celebrating the life of Florence Richler will be held at 10:30 am, Wednesday, January 15th, at The Cathedral Church of St. James, 106 King Street East (at Church Street). In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in her name to a charity of your choice (she liked and favoured them all). Condolences may be forwarded through www.humphreymiles.com.