The passing of an old-school travel agent


I learned last Saturday evening that I had lost a friend.  When my phone rang and the caller I.D. showed her name, I must admit I was surprised.  We had not talked for several years but managed to maintain a greeting-card relationship. Sheila was more comfortable with physical mail, in the form of birthday and Christmas cards than email or text.  Not unusual for a woman in her nineties.

When I answered, and heard the voice of her husband Carl, it did not take long to figure out why he was calling.

When I answered, and heard the voice of her husband Carl, it did not take long to figure out why he was calling. Carl told me that he had found Sheila unresponsive on Friday morning and had called 911. Upon arrival, he was informed by the medical responders that she had passed in her sleep. No signs of distress or discomfort. Just as she deserved. We should all be so lucky to pass at 98 in our sleep!

I first met Sheila when I started working for a company owned and operated by two friends and neighbours of mine. When it came to travel,  she was the go-to person. Regardless of the time of day, Sheila was always available to see to our needs. From flight changes to last-minute hotel bookings,  she took, it all in stride,  whether from her workplace, a store-front travel agency on Greene Avenue, or her home outside of business hours. In my early days, as online booking became the norm, and travel agents went the way of dinosaurs, I suggested, ignorantly, that I could do the travel arrangements in-house. Thankfully the principal partner immediately rejected this idea. Having known Sheila longer, he knew what he was talking about. 

She used to get a kick out of pointing out that one of the little requirements of an Air Canada agent was to be sure to place the customer’s change not on the counter, but in their hand.

Sheila Andersen, nee Daley (she was always proud of her Irish heritage), was an old-school travel agent. Customer service was the thing she did second best, arranging sometimes complicated travel itineraries being her forte. She once told me that she had been trained in her profession by Air Canada in an era when people actually interacted physically.  She used to get a kick out of pointing out that one of the little requirements of an Air Canada agent was to be sure to place the customer’s change not on the counter, but in their hand.

Carl told me that, since Sheila’s health had deteriorated over the last couple of years, he had, like many dedicated caregivers, moved to another room to give her all the space she wanted.  Sometimes she would call out to him during the night. On several occasions when he arrived she would have forgotten what she wanted, and she would just ask Carl for another kiss goodnight. It seems that this was the case last Thursday, which means Sheila’s last words to Carl were a request for another goodnight kiss. Carl granted her request, then she passed away

After Carl told me about Sheila’s passing he joked about hoping she’d not go up to heaven as then he’d never see her again. However,  anyone who knows Carl, who over decades has raised countless thousands of dollars for charity through his ability to run far and long, knows he and Sheila will one day, hopefully not too soon, be reunited in a good place. 

Rest in peace, Sheila.

Categories DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Montreal, Obituary

8 thoughts on “The passing of an old-school travel agent

  1. Linda Blackwell Phelan February 20, 2023 — 9:40 am

    A lovely tribute, Deegan. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. Linda

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. A touching tribute Deegan.

  3. Although, I met Sheila once, at Carl’s birthday celebration, at the legion, a few years ago; Lance and I, Ann, have chatted with Carl on many occasions, while he was out shopping, or a walk, and at the same time, always conscious of Sheila.
    We send our condolences to Carl, and know how much he loved her, and is missing her.
    Our love and thoughts are with you Carl.
    Sincerely: Lance and Ann Evoy

  4. Carl. That is beautiful What a lovely lady and wish that I had known her.
    Keep well and hope to see you this week.
    All the best
    Joy

  5. Sheila sounds like a lovely person and I’m glad she passed away so gently. Carl will be remembered as a great care giver as well as husband and we at the legion will support him in any way we can.

    Your letter is wonderful.

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