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ONTARIO: Devastated daughter urges people to stay home after parents died days apart, victims of COVID-19

Elizabeth and Lyle Fox are being remembered by family and wide 'circle of friends' in Orillia

A much-loved Orillia couple, Lyle and Elizabeth Fox, died two days apart late last week, victims of the dreaded coronavirus.

“We never expected something like this - to lose our parents so quickly, together, and in such a bizarre manner,” said their daughter, Jennifer Thorne. 

She said she and her family and her brother Mike, who lives in B.C., are devastated. She is pleading with people to take COVID-19 seriously and to heed warnings from the authorities.

“The most important thing is, please, please listen to the government, to the health professionals and stay home,” she urged. “Please don’t put other people at risk.”

And if you have ignored the warnings, she encourages people to call the authorities and confess.

“If you have been out in the community when you shouldn’t have been, please let the authorities know,” she said. 

Thorne, who lives in Arnprior, said she has been “overwhelmed” by support from people in her hometown of Orillia.

She said her parents had an “always growing circle of friends” that have been providing encouragement and assistance from afar.

The reality of the pandemic is crushing, said Thorne, who is trying to make arrangements from afar; she is looking forward to a time “when we can hug again.”

She knows her parents will be missed by many.

Elizabeth, 78, was a long-time Royal Bank teller and an avid artist. 

Lyle, 82, worked for many years at Bell Canada, before becoming a part-time courier for MDS Labs.

While Elizabeth had some underlying health issues that made her vulnerable to the virus, Lyle “was in tip-top shape,” Thorne said, noting her dad worked out religiously and walked regularly.

In the first week of March, Liz and Lyle had decided to self-isolate to try to protect themselves, with Lyle venturing out only for groceries and other necessities.

It’s uncertain how Elizabeth contracted the virus. But as they were isolating together in their home, it would have been almost impossible for Lyle not to get the deadly virus.

And while Thorne is devastated, she is thankful for those who helped her parents in their final days.

She said a Simcoe County Paramedic Services attendant named Paul, and his colleague, “risked their lives” to come into her parents’ home two different times to bring them to Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH).

Their family doctor, Dr. Peter Daniel, was “an absolute godsend,” said Thorne, who also praised the front-line staff at OSMH, including nurse Gwen Forrest. 

“She was with dad right to the end,” said Thorne, noting Forrest grew up in the same neighbourhood where the Foxes have lived for more than 50 years and recognized Lyle when he was brought to the hospital.

“These doctors and nurses and technicians and paramedics and front-line staff … they deserve our esteem. They are absolutely amazing,” said Thorne.

For the circle of friends that knew and loved the Foxes, the sudden loss of the gregarious couple will be felt deeply.

Dick Sleep first ran into Lyle in 1972 at the Orillia YMCA.

“He was trying to get and stay in shape as was I,” recalled Sleep of his friend of almost 50 years. “We both worked for large organizations, he the Bell Telephone company and me the OPP. Over the years we ran together, biked, and skied, had a few drinks and generally looked after each other.”

Sleep quickly learned Lyle had a great sense of humour - and had home-court advantage.

“Because Lyle was from Orillia (actually Dalrymple) and worked with many other Orillians he always had an advantage over me because I wasn’t born here and any interaction with some of the locals I had was, on occasion, not very friendly,” quipped Sleep.

Lyle was often out and about, working in the community.

“Any time you wanted to find Lyle you looked for a small tent over a manhole. Look down and there was Lyle with his little radio going, glasses perched on the end of his nose, splicing wire,” said Sleep.

In later years, after retiring from Bell, he got a part-time job working for MDS Labs; his visits to local doctors offices always brought smiles to the faces of those who worked there.

Liz was a long-time teller at Royal Bank.

“She had a heart of gold and everywhere she went she knew somebody,” said Sleep.

Both gave back to the community in their own way. 

“Lyle was big into the CANUS Games back in the day and had also been a Scoutmaster,” said Sleep. “He was well known for the number of blood donations he made.”

Liz volunteered at the hospital and helped at many bank functions. 

“They both joined the Probus Club and joined the shufflers at Rotary Place,” said Sleep.

They were a well-suited couple, said Sleep.

“Liz was the perfect victim. She always got wound up when you mentioned certain events that occurred and of course Lyle would rub it in,” said Sleep. “Lyle had many stories to tell about Liz which would get her going but privately I think she wanted to be the centre of attention and played the victim very well.”

Sleep said he will dearly miss his beloved friends.

“Liz and Lyle were wonderful people who really enjoyed their friends,” said Sleep. “It was obvious they loved each other, their kids and grandson very much.”

Because of the pandemic, no funeral will be held. However, a celebration will be planned when “we can hug again.”


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Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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