Valorie Preston was a doer and her gravy is legend. She was not well-behaved but she did
make history as a teacher, political organizer, community leader, artist and advocate for social
Born in Winnipeg and raised on a mixed family farm outside Milden, Saskatchewan, Valorie
walked a literal 2 miles across the prairie to a one room schoolhouse in Winton Hill. She finished
high school in Milden, winning the Governor General's prize and joining her first women's
organization - Canadian Girls in Training. With the strong support of her parents Keith Alexander
McPhadden and Mary Eliza Porter (from whom she learned to make gravy), and inspiration from
her Aunt Port (Edith), she left the farm to study English and teaching at U Saskatchewan and
Northwestern in Chicago.
Returning to Saskatchewan, a political disagreement with a Superintendent kept her from a
teaching job in Saskatoon, so she taught in the small town of Colonsay until the dust settled in
the city. Her 14 years as a teacher sparked a lifelong joy in young people, their ideas and their
growth. Decades later, former students found her on Facebook to share the influence Valorie
had on their lives.
University friend Marj Benson asked Valorie to organize events in schools across the Province
to celebrate the start of International Women's Day which put her on the radar of the
Saskatchewan NDP. She joined as an advisor to Premier Allan Blakeney at a time when he was
belatedly getting serious about women's equality. Before long, she was promoted to chief of
staff, supporting the Premier through the constitutional wars of the late Trudeau years.
Her move into politics also marked her separation from husband Bill Preston who she had
married in 1962. But she lucked upon Norma Mitchell who helped look after her son Dent during
her years in Regina and became another lifelong friend.
Valorie moved to the Federal NDP in the mid 80's. While she left the Province for good, she
remained close to her family, brothers Hugh (Pat), Ian (Gloria) and sister Margaret (Pat) and
above all, her nieces and nephews - Derek, Dean, Jaclyn, Tara, Joel and Jillian.
The high point of her time in Federal politics came when she managed Audrey McLaughlin's
leadership campaign. The first woman leader of a national party, supported by the first woman
to lead a national campaign. Valorie loved to tell the story of an early meeting with Ms.
McLaughlin in Whitehorse. They came out of a conference room to see some girls sitting at the
desk talking on the phone and writing notes. When asked what they were doing, the girls
answered, "we are playing Audrey." Representation matters.
Post politics, she held leadership roles with Synchro Canada, the Business Professional
Woman's Association, Ottawa Women's Credit Union and the Association for the Mentally
Retarded and began to focus on her beautiful abstract art.
In 1989, she met Louise Tardif. In the finest lesbian tradition, 20 minutes after their first date,
they moved in together and were rarely seen apart thereafter. Valorie and Louise lived openly
and proudly as a highly successful professional couple through years when that was rare and
brave. Mentor and friend to many young people from the LGBT community, Valorie was above
all an example, who presumed equity and fairness, but pushed hard when it wasn't there.
Louise was her opposite in so many ways - francophone, urbane Montrealer, working in Finance
- but they proved a perfect match. Arguing and debating through the years as they traveled,
read, built community, collected friends and mentees and threw the greatest dinner parties in
Ottawa and Change Islands, Newfoundland (many with gravy!).
One of her collected friends, Christine McAllister, came to be a daughter in all the ways that
matter. Christine soon brought along a partner, Todd Cain and three grandkids, each of whom
was imbued with a superpower by Grandma Val. Braeden with a love and aptitude for political
organization, Calum with artistic temperament and creative expression and MacKenzie with all
purpose can do determination and stubbornness. It remains to be seen if anyone got the gravy
But her greatest pride was her son Dent. With a number of special challenges that arose in his
early years, she raised him with tough and steadfast love and a fierce advocacy that he get the
same chances as any kid. Taking him on backcountry canoe trips with her high school students,
bringing him on the campaign trail and finding him the best available programs and supports all
helped build the resourceful, independent man he is today.
An Irish wake will be held in Ottawa on Saturday, November 25th at Bayview Yards, RBC Foundry, 7 Bayview Station Road, from 2pm - 4pm.
A second service in Saskatchewan will follow next spring. In lieu of flowers, the family would
appreciate donations to Y's Owl MacClure Cooperative Centre , the Saskatchewan Abilities
Council or a women's shelter of your choice (or send top notch gravy).