DiMarco remembered as 'one of a kind'

DiMarco, who served the citizens of Brampton for more than 30 years, first as a volunteer, then as a politician, died in hospital this morning following a battle with lung cancer. She was 61.

A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Christ Anglican Church, 4 Elizabeth St. N. Viewing will be at Ward Funeral Home Sunday, 7 to 9 p.m., and Monday 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. She will be laid to rest in the historic Churchville Cemetery where she picked out a plot just three weeks ago.

DiMarco lived in and loved Brampton’s downtown core, friends and family say. She represented the constituents and businesses there for a total of 15 years on Brampton city council.

“She really loved the city,” said her eldest son, Tony. “She lived and breathed Brampton.”

She cared deeply about the city’s heritage buildings, and the arts and music were her personal passions.

“She loved, loved, loved the art gallery (PAMA),” Tony DiMarco said.

Diagnosed with double lung cancer in January of this year, DiMarco had been in and out of hospital ever since, but despite being “very, very sick”, she still managed to attend the official opening of the renovated PAMA on Wellington Street last month, and her son took her to Gage Park for her favourite Concerts in the Park series this past summer, one of the many things she had a hand in bringing to the city’s core.

She lived a very public life as a politician, but she wanted to keep her illness private as she fought to try to heal.

But she was “elated” when she was told city councillors approved just last month a tribute to her be incorporated into the water feature in Garden Square in front of the Rose Theatre, Tony DiMarco said.

“She cared about the arts, and maintaining a beautiful and safe city,” he said. “She was a beautiful woman who just liked to be there for other people. She liked to help people.”

She raised three children here— Tony and his brother Ken still live in Brampton. Her daughter, Kim, lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and children.

Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell said DiMarco was a "very long time, dear friend of mine".

"Her devotion to the people she represented was incredible," Fennell said. "Susan openly supported and encouraged my bid for mayor in 2000."

DiMarco had attended the Mayors Golf Classic dinner this past July and was declared 'cancer-clear' at that time, Fennell said.

"Susan will forever be remembered for the classy, kind and determined way she represented her community."

Fennell said her legacy in Brampton will be remembered.

"Her love for our downtown made her a champion of arts, culture and our heritage," she said. "Our landmark Rose Theatre was named by Susan – a fitting tribute to a woman whose efforts to make Brampton bloom were unwavering. My thoughts and prayers go out to Susan’s family and friends."

Wards 2 & 6 City Councillor John Hutton and his family were dear friends of DiMarco, and he, too, is mourning her loss.

“She’s really going to be missed,” Hutton said. “She was one of a kind.”

He said he knew her for more than 30 years, and they were both elected to council for the first time in 1985.

“She was a gracious lady and she really cared about the city, about every aspect of Brampton,” Hutton said.

He said she used “quiet diplomacy” to get things done.

“She wasn’t pushy,” he said. “She was a pragmatist. She was able to persuade people in her own quiet way.”

She was involved in “everything to do with making Brampton a better place,” Hutton said.

“That was her goal, her life. I think she did that with some of the things she contributed.”

Born in Edmonton on Sept. 14, 1951, her family moved to Etobicoke when she was still a child. She grew up there, and married in 1976, moving to Brampton in 1978, first on Hanson Road, then later Flowertown Avenue.

She was a stay-at-home mom until she took an interest in politics and volunteered to help Brampton-Georgetown Conservative MP John McDermid’s campaign. From there, she joined the Ward 5 Citizens Advisory Committee and took on the role of campaign manager for then-Ward 5 Alderman Chris Gibson. When Gibson decided to run for the regional seat, he nominated DiMarco to run for his old seat as city alderman. She won.

That was 1985, and she served two terms (six years) before deciding to leave municipal politics and join the Brampton Downtown Development Association as the executive director in 1991.

She helped get that organization back on its feet, and helped it develop many of the programs still in place, including the first hour free parking program, the Thursday night Concert Series in Gage Park, downtown carriage rides and the very successful evening Santa Claus parade. Her efforts relocated the Farmers’ Market to Main Street, introduced decorative downtown banners and brought the DuMaurier Jazz Festival to Brampton for a brief period of time.

At the urging of the community, she re-entered politics in 1997 and was elected Ward 4 city councillor. In 2000, she was elected as Wards 3 & 4 regional councillor.

It was DiMarco who recommended Brampton’s new state-of-the-art live theatre be named The Rose Theatre after she heard about the archeological discovery in London, England of the original Rose, an Elizabethan-era theatre where playwright William Shakespeare first performed.

In 2006, after serving another three terms (nine years), she was defeated by current incumbent John Sanderson in a close race that saw the two separated by less than 300 votes.

She made an unsuccessful bid to win her seat back in the last municipal election in 2010. She had been spending her time as an independent consultant for private, non-profit and development industries primarily in the arts, design, retail and community -building.

In addition to her work as a politician, she was also an active volunteer, chairing and working in support of a variety of local charities.

*Copied from the Brampton Guardian