Oak Bay comes together to honor late community matriarch – Sooke News Mirror

The house of the late Marion Cumming housed Aboriginal art from many regions. Cumming’s life is honored with gratitude at a rally Saturday, Oct. 22 from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Dave Dunnet Community Theater at Oak Bay High, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd. (Christine van Reeuwk/Press Crew)
Among her legacies, Marion Cumming returned land by donating her century-old Oak Bay home to the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.  His life is gratefully honored at a rally Saturday, Oct. 22 from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Dave Dunnet Community Theater at Oak Bay High, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Press Crew)Among her legacies, Marion Cumming returned land by donating her century-old Oak Bay home to the Victoria Native Friendship Centre. His life is gratefully honored at a rally Saturday, Oct. 22 from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Dave Dunnet Community Theater at Oak Bay High, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd. (Christine van Reeuwyk/Press Crew)
Marion Cumming's life is gratefully honored at a rally on Saturday, October 22 from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Dave Dunnet Community Theater at Oak Bay High, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd. (Courtesy Arifin Graham )Marion Cumming’s life is gratefully honored at a rally on Saturday, October 22 from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Dave Dunnet Community Theater at Oak Bay High, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd. (Courtesy Arifin Graham )

Oak Bay celebrates artist, activist and leader Marion Cumming with a rally of gratitude

Cumming passed away peacefully at home on the morning of August 1, surrounded by friends and loved ones.

Born in Toronto in 1936, Cumming turned 86 on July 26. She and her late husband Bruce lived in Ontario and New Brunswick for the past three decades in Greater Victoria. Bruce died in 2008.

Longtime friend Robin June Hood called Cumming a tour de force – a remarkable combination of a brilliant mind and a woman ahead of her time with her involvement in Indigenous rights, the return to land and the links between cultural and ecological existence and well-being.

The awareness dates back to her days as a young woman, Hood said. Cumming acknowledged her privileged upbringing, something made evident while working in Mexico as a volunteer art teacher at a mental institution. She took a two-hour bus ride each way to a tough part of town to teach abandoned children, once by family and again by the system, Hood said.

“She was so struck by the power of art, beauty and kindness that she made an incredible impression on the children,” Hood said. “That’s where this great awareness of justice and the use of art and kindness brings people together and this incredible love for children (started).”

Her interests grew as she did, and Cumming became a champion of ancient forests alongside heritage buildings and she documented environmental movements through her art.

She used her privilege and took it when possible to make the world a better place through art and education and the conservation and preservation of special places and “always tried to draw people in with her,” Hood said.

“She was amazing in her productivity. She had about eight different campaigns running at a time.

In all campaigns, she was wonderfully, passively persistent, said her friend Ron Carter, who sat down for tea with Cumming several times as they shared a passion for talking trees.

“I now regret being in more of a rush than stopping for tea. It was always a nice thing. She was just calming down in her own soothing way,” Carter said.

He thinks Oak Bay has lost a community matriarch.

In addition to her tenacity, Carter remains impressed with her “mind-boggling” generosity.

“She has such an affinity for First Nations and righting past wrongs, trying to make up for the rest of us,” Carter said.

Cumming and her husband Bruce, discovering they were on unceded territory, donated their New Brunswick farm to the Maliseet in 1992. In 2019, she donated a cabin in the Cowichan Valley to the Victoria Native Friendship Center and also bequeathed her house Sunny Lane to them.

“She was really the person who started reconciliation on the court,” Hood said.

Cumming worked with local archives and artists to create a monument trail that showcases the history of what is now Oak Bay. Unveiled in 2009, the monuments feature works by Salish artist Charles (Temosen) Elliott.

Cumming’s artwork will be on display as his life is gratefully honored at a rally on Saturday, October 22 from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Dave Dunnet Community Theater at Oak Bay High, 2121 Cadboro Bay Rd.

The event will also be streamed live at lumeraevents.com/marioncumming.

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