Marion Gilsenan, one of Canada's beloved actresses succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Jan. 11 at her Toronto home. She was 63 and is survived by her husband Peter Freund and her three children.
Gilsenan had triumphed over a 15-year long battle with breast cancer, but a year ago learned that the disease had entered her bile duct.
Gilsenan gained national popularity on CBC-TV's prime time soap, "Riverdale," playing Jane Mackenzie, upholder of community standards in the former grand Toronto neighborhood of the same name. Admired for her portrayal of both classical and contemporary women, Marion Gilsesan was considered "a class act" both in her professional life and in her personal relations.
While on hiatus from chemotherapy treatment in November, she opted to fulfill her contractual obligations with The Canadian Stage Company to play the matriarch in The Norbals , a new Canadian comedy at the Berkeley Street second stage venue. Despite her deteriorating condition, she awed her colleagues with her determination and unflagging performance, living up to her positive reviews -- a constant throughout her career. She had her understudy go on for the two matinees each week.
Last October, she received critical and public acclaim as Edna in the CSC's production of A Delicate Balance . Halfway through the four-week run she withdrew quietly from the production to receive treatment. She came to Canada from her native England in l957 and, except for a two-year return there, carved out a flourishing career in Canadian theatre coast to coast -- including the prestigious Shaw and Stratford Shakespeare festivals -- and on Canadian television and film. She enjoyed a highly successful career uniquely matched only by her long-running roles as loyal wife and devoted mother.
--By Alan Rabin,