Obituary of Mona Helen Margaret Blair Bandeen
Mona Helen Margaret Blair Bandeen C.M., M.A., M.B.A.
1934 - 2020
Mona Bandeen was a lady and scholar who was determined to make a difference in the world and who succeeded brilliantly and beautifully in all regards. She died in Toronto on March 23rd from complications brought on by what was presumed to be auto-immune encephalitis. She was predeceased by her husband of 52 years, Robert (Bob) Angus Bandeen (OC), her son, Mark Everett Bandeen, and her brother, Sidney Robert (Bob) Blair (CC). She is survived by her sons and their families: Ian Blair Bandeen and his wife, Elizabeth Armitage and their children, Robert (Ridge), Grace, Spencer and Darcy; Mark’s children, Bradford and Blair; Robert Derek Bandeen and his wife, Bonnie Miao and their children, Kelsey, Jesse, Jeffrey and Luke; and Adam Drummond Bandeen and his wife, Elizabeth O’Connor and their children, Kismet, Cassius and Duvessa.
She is also survived by her cousins; David and Hugh Gentleman, and Anne Wallen; by her brother’s children, Megan Roughley, Jamie Blair, Bob Blair, Martin Blair, and Charlotte Blair; and by her brother-in-law’s children, Barbara Bandeen, Brad Bandeen and Janice Eales.
Mona was born in Watford, England on February 6, 1934 to Janet (Nettie) Russell Gentleman and Sidney Martin Blair, who were then living in London where her father was among the first Canadians to become involved in the emerging international petroleum industry. At the outbreak of the Second World War, the family left Europe via Genoa aboard one of the few boats to survive the last convoy of passenger ships heading to the United States. They settled in Rye, N.Y. where Mona attended Rye Country Day School and her father continued to manage the sole refinery producing the high-octane gasoline needed by the allied air forces. With peace restored in 1945, Mona returned to England for her high school years at Wycombe Abbey School, graduating in 1949 at the age of fifteen.
In 1949 the family moved back to Canada and Mona spent a year at Bishop Strachan School before moving on to Trinity College at the University of Toronto. Upon graduating she wanted to pursue an M.B.A., but there had not been any women graduates of the program in Canada and at nineteen years old she felt a bit too young to be a trailblazer. Mona was offered a grant by the University of Toronto to earn her Master’s degree in Histology, which she received in 1955. Upon graduation she was offered a medical research position at McGill University which would allow her to continue her research in her field of interest for two years before she joined the research department at C-I-L, then one of Canada’s largest chemical companies.
In early 1957 she met her future husband, Bob Bandeen, who had just finished his Ph.D. at Duke University and was working for the Canadian National Railway. She would often say that she knew they were destined for each other when she first heard his voice. They were married the following spring and settled in Montreal where they raised their four sons. As the youngest was finishing high school, Mona returned to her academic career and earned her M.B.A. from the University of Toronto in 1983.
During the years of looking after her young family, Mona realized it would not be feasible for her to raise the boys, travel with Bob (who rose to become President and CEO of the Canadian National Railway and then Chairman and President of the Crown Life Insurance Company) and hold a full time job. Instead she chose to channel her considerable talents over the decades towards serving as a member of more than thirty boards across a wide variety of institutions, organizations and corporations.
Mona served as a Director of the Foster Home Recruiting Service (Chair); the Montreal Council of Women; the National Council of Women for Canada (National Chairman for the Arts); the Montreal Symphony Orchestra; Centraide de Montreal; L’ Institut de Recherches Clinique de Montreal; the Stratford Shakespearean Festival (Chairman of the Archives and Member of the Senate); the John P. Robarts Institute (a founding Director); the National Theatre School of Canada; the National Ballet of Canada; C.J.R.T – FM Inc.; the Canadian Club of Toronto; the Community Sheltered Workshops (Toronto); the Chamber Players of Toronto (President); Arts-Sutton Inc. (founding Director); the S.M. Blair Family Foundation (President); the Therese F. Casgrain Foundation (President); Bishop’s University (member of the executive committee of the Board of Management); the Institute of Corporate Directors; and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. She was also; Co-Chair of the Ontario Arts Council; a Co-Chair of the foundation’s appeal to the L.E.A.F. (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) Foundation; a member of a variety of government and corporate commissions and inquiries directed at improving the environment for small business development in Canada; and administered six high-tech companies for the Government of Ontario. In addition, Mona developed her own consulting company specializing in new product development and served as Chair of a privately owned fragrance company.
A strong advocate for women in leadership roles, Mona was invited to set up the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program at the Rotman School of the University of Toronto in 1990. The program was designed to stimulate the Canadian economy by nurturing women’s entrepreneurial skills and encouraging small business development. The program specifically recognized and addressed the problems facing women who run their own companies. This quickly led to the recognition of the need to promote women entrepreneurs on a national level and the creation of the now named RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 1992.
In 1996 Mona was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada and in 1997 was honoured as a Woman of Distinction by the YWCA. She was also a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2002.
In her personal life Mona was a thought-leader and unflinchingly loving supporter to everyone in her family. Throughout her life she set a sterling example, led the life of a true lady and inspired all those privileged to have known her.
Following cremation her ashes will be buried with her husband in the Bandeen ancestral plot at Duart, Ontario and scattered at the family’s beloved Highland Farm. There will be life celebrations once conditions permit. In the interim, to register a desire to participate in these celebrations, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For those wishing to make a charitable donation, please think of providing support for the brave nurses and staff of the 5B Neurosurgery/Neurology unit at the Toronto Western Hospital (tgwhf.ca/tribute) who worked so tirelessly and brought comfort to Mona’s final days. Condolences may be forwarded through www.humphreymiles.com.