TFC Pioneers

The Thyroid Foundation of Canada is eternally grateful to the many volunteers who contributed towards the creation and development of TFC. These dedicated people are the TFC Pioneers and without them, there would be no TFC.

We invite you to read the stories of these remarkable people who achieved so much, for TFC, for thyroid patients and beyond to others who benefited from knowing them.

Lottie Garfield

Marjorie Miniely

June Rose-Beaty

Rhoda and Joe Boyce

Mabel Miller

Ashok Bhaseen

Diana Meltzer Abramsky, C.M. B.A.

1915 – 2000

Founder, Thyroid Foundation of Canada

The Thyroid Foundation of Canada/La Fondation canadienne de la Thyroïde was founded in 1980 by Diana Meltzer Abramsky CM, BA in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Diana wanted to help the many patients suffering from thyroid disease as she had done. With the assistance of Dr. Jack Wall she began the very first thyroid foundation in the world. A research fund was set up and educational material developed for patients on a wide range of thyroid topics.

Before 1980 there was no lay organization in the world of its type. TFC has been used as a model to form thyroid foundations in other countries around the world.

Diana’s work was recognized with many awards and in 1991 she received the Order of Canada. Sadly, Diana passed away in October 2000 but her work continues through many dedicated volunteers across Canada.

A Tribute to Diana – by Mabel Miller

A long time ago, a lady from Kingston, Ontario, Canada had a dream, or should I say she saw a need, a need we’re all very familiar with and it all started because she realized there were no answers to her own health situation being Graves’ Disease, a thyroid condition, and for years was led to believe her problem was psychosomatic! Diana had a dream that led to a mission.

A turning point for Diana was when she was sitting and waiting for an appointment at a thyroid clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Sitting next to Diana was a young girl who seemed to be very upset about a similar condition. So in 1980 this led to Diana forming the Thyroid Foundation of Canada.

One of her key supporters was an Endocrinologist, Dr. Jack Wall, who was attending to her regarding the issues she had with her thyroid problem.

Some information around the forming of the Thyroid Foundation of Canada

Along with Diana were: Mary Salsbury, Dr. Laurence Wilson, Phyllis (Hannah) Mackey, Walter Viner, QC, Dr. Jack Wall, Ralph Abramsky, Evelyn & Len Freeman, Nathalie & Bob Gifford, George & Carol Wright, Margaret Burdsall, Jack Tarantello, Sherry Stayer and The Frontenac County Board of Education who provided volunteer space for meetings.

Initially, the first six Chapters established were: Kingston, Ontario; Vancouver, British Columbia; Ottawa, Toronto, and Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario; and Edmonton, Alberta. Over the next few years, the organization had grown to 22 chapters from coast to coast across Canada.

As well, similar organizations were being established all over the world – the US, UK, Europe, Asia, and South America.

In 1990 during the International Thyroid Congress in Toronto, an international patient organization was formed which is now known worldwide as Thyroid Federation International and Diana was there for that wonderful occasion.

Here we are 35 years after Diana’s quest to do something about the lack of information on thyroid disease for thyroid patients.

I would now like to share with you some of Diana’s words about the organization from a speech she gave in June 1987
which puts it all in perspective. She titled it “Accepting the Challenge”. Diana wrote: “What happy memories we have of early beginnings and continuing milestones in our progress.

“There is so much to be thankful for …That helping others has become a way of life for members of the Foundation as they help to spread the knowledge gained across Canada and the world.

“We are enjoying our status as a Thyroid Foundation on the world stage as chartered members of Thyroid Federation International. We take pride in the fact it all started in Kingston, ON, Canada.

“We are thankful that we have made and will continue to make a difference in our own lives and lives of others. [Diana stated] For me personally I am thankful that I have lived to see my dream come true of a world-wide Thyroid Foundation come to pass.”

My own feelings are we should never fail to be indebted to Diana and the insight, the fortitude, the efforts and the accomplishments that have been realized from her quest. I only wish she could be here today so we could show her our appreciation. God Bless her for her enthusiasm and fortitude.

The Thyroid Foundation has come a long way, climbed over many hurdles, fought many battles, undertaken many endeavors, been fortunate enough to have many dedicated people who have and still want to continue the mission for better quality of life for thyroid patients and their families.

Thyroid disease is a family affair and impacts not only the patient but families as well. We should never lose sight of that.

Mabel Miller, Thyrobulletin Autumn 2015

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Dr. Jack R. Wall

Professor A. Margaret Evans

1914 – 2014

Founder, Kitchener-Waterloo

Dr. A. Margaret Evans was born on January 18, 1914 on a 50-acre farm just north of Hensall, Ontario. We very sadly lost her on December 20, 2014, just before her 101st birthday. Anyone who knew Margaret, was shocked when we found out she was celebrating her 100th birthday in 2014. Her age was her most carefully guarded secret for all of the years that I knew her. She was one of the most amazing women I ever met. She married Professor Wellesley Dorland Evans in 1945 and lost him in 1954. This meant she would be raising 3 children (2 boys and a girl) on her own. Her children were very proud of their mother and she also was of them. Margaret had 5 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She won Scholarships in Mathematics and Chemistry to be admitted to the University of Western Ontario at the age of 15 years but had to wait until she was 16 to attend. Attending University during the Great Depression, she was told that her education was a waste because, being a woman, she would get married and then not use it. Again, at Western, she won 2 Gold Medals the same year and because she was a woman, the university tried to give her only one.

On November 9, 1982, Margaret and a group of local thyroid patients including Helen Goldsworthy sat around the table in Margaret’s kitchen and formed our local Kitchener-Waterloo Area Chapter which is still in full operation to this day. In 1980, Margaret was diagnosed with Graves’ thyroid disease and was determined not to let the disease run her life. Concerned with the lack of information locally on thyroid problems, she heard about the Thyroid Foundation of Canada in Kingston and decided a Chapter was needed in Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W). I believe she told me that the first meeting was held at the Waterloo Public Library where she was able to creatively obtain a room for free, as she was on the Board there. We have been extremely fortunate now to be a part of the Kitchener Public Library Health Program and still have the room, equipment, advertising and staff, who support our Chapter tremendously. Margaret was able to form a working Board and conduct education meetings to qualify to start our Chapter. This year, our Chapter celebrates 33 years of assisting thyroid patients and their families, by offering moral support, awareness and thyroid education. We still have a full working Board with an impressive thyroid education program with two very knowledgeable speakers.

For many years, Margaret answered single-handedly all of the Chapter’s help-line calls on a 24-hour basis, mailed out health guides and thyroid questionnaires to anyone in need of information. She spent many hours discussing thyroid disease with patients and informed them of local Chapter meetings and endocrinologists available on a referral basis. Margaret kept current on ongoing thyroid research and used her wealth of knowledge, educating patients through speeches at meetings and on radio and television. When I had our new Education Program ready for the new year, she would insist on addressing by hand and mailing out every program to our members, doctors, pharmacies, hospitals, etc. She answered all of the enquiry calls resulting from the free media advertising. I could never convince her to get a computer. This is something she was happy to do while watching television! Margaret was always the optimist and you didn’t dare suggest that something could not be done. In June 2012, at the first and only Annual General Meeting of the Thyroid Foundation of Canada held in the K-W area, Margaret spoke at great length about her experience founding our Chapter and serving in every position on the Board since that time. Margaret would also tell you about her cat with hyperthyroidism who would constantly run up her drapes until it was diagnosed and treated. She dearly loved her animals and wrote and published a book about them – “Beloved Companions”. She donated copies for one of our fundraisers.

When Margaret was suffering from undiagnosed hyperthyroidism for several years, it affected her voice and led her to stop teaching. Instead, she organized the university archives, working in the basement room where she did not need to speak.

For Margaret’s Doctoral thesis, she wrote a book on “Sir Oliver Mowat”. It was described as a thorough, well-written study of the life and career of Oliver Mowat, a Father of Confederation who served as Ontario Premier for 24 years from 1872 –1896. He was one of the longest serving Premiers in Canada and he also served concurrently as Ontario Attorney-General. He went on to serve as Federal Minister of Justice in Wilfrid Laurier’s cabinet and then as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

She was also co-author and co-publisher of “Century One: A History of the Ontario Veterinary Association 1874 – 1974. It was an important contribution to the history of medicine in Canada.

Margaret was a very humble lady and would never seek recognition for herself. She received many awards for all of the volunteer hours she dedicated to serving her community and everyone in it.

We miss Margaret and thank her for her hard work and dedication. To accomplish so much at a difficult time in the history of women was truly something to be very proud of!

Joan De Ville

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Helen Goldsworthy

1923 – 2015

Founding Member, Kitchener-Waterloo

Helen was born on February 9, 1923 on the 100-acre Goodhope Farm in Downie Township, Perth County, Ontario. We were very sad to lose Helen on January 1, 2015, so close to the time we also lost her dear friend of many years, Margaret Evans.

Helen suffered with both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism at different times in her life. On November 9, 1982, Helen assisted Margaret in establishing a complete working Board. They all worked around Margaret’s kitchen table preparing materials to use for educating thyroid patients. They managed to conduct education meetings on thyroid disease to assist thyroid patients and their families with 5 meetings each year. This made them qualified for a Charter to become the K-W Area Chapter. She and Margaret Evans worked so hard for so many years while filling different positions on the Board of the K-W Area Chapter. Thirty-three years later, we are still using the display with the backdrop hand-made at that time – complete with hand-drawn artwork probably done by Helen with her artistic talent. We also still use the large banner with hand-cut felt letters glued onto it.

Helen’s husband, John Goldsworthy, was always at the education meetings to lend support where needed. They were both wonderful, amazing people very dedicated to helping stressed thyroid patients and their families. Helen was a great advocate of more research and personal learning on all forms of thyroid disease. She always encouraged many people to attend the local Chapter meetings. I remember the night that Helen asked me if I would consider doing the position of Program Chairman in 1996 just for a couple of years. At the time, I was the Assistant Education Chairman. I had no idea what was involved or even if I could do this position at all. Helen handed me all of the materials and explained how I just needed to call 5 doctors or someone dealing with thyroid disease each year. Watching how well she did the job, it sure didn’t look as easy as she led me to believe! Both Helen and Margaret were so expert at just taking over any of the Board positions.

John and Helen have 2 sons I got to know as teenagers when they helped with the very busy family business, R. D. Goldsworthy & Co. Ltd. which dealt with commercial sewing machines. What wonderful dedicated men their sons have grown into. When John and Helen were not able to drive to the Chapter meeting, one of their sons was always there to make sure they were able to attend all of the Education Meetings. They also have 6 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. I know both Helen and John treasured each and every one of them.

Helen grew up during the Great Depression years with all of the difficulties that went with it. She attended a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1 – 9. Helen moved into Stratford to live with her maternal grandmother to be able to attend high school. There were no school buses at that time. She was able to attend Stratford Normal School, which was the teacher’s college for the area. After teaching for a few years, Helen decided to accept a teaching position in Kiosk, a small lumbering community in the North West area of Algonquin Provincial Park. At that time, there were no roads into the community, only a rail line from North Bay. She was in Kiosk for only 2 years even though she loved it there. She taught until she had her family to take care of. Helen studied art under a brilliant and encouraging Czech artist, Matthew Kousal, until she had toddlers running around.

Helen was also a very humble lady and firmly believed in the importance of service. Throughout her life, she volunteered in many different areas. As a young woman, she was a United Church CGIT summer camp Director for a few years. She volunteered at the Grand River Hospital, and held many other volunteer positions.

We thank Helen for her hard work and dedication. She also accomplished so much at a difficult time in the history of women. Both Helen and Margaret set a terrific example to inspire other women.

Joan De Ville

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Margaret Burdsall

1921 – 2014

National Board Member, President, Kingston Chapter

Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Aunt, Cousin
Grandmother, Great-Grandmother
Friend, Supermom

Dietician, Cook, Baker, Jam Maker Extraordinaire
Best Brownie Maker in the World
Seamstress, Mitten Maker
Best Mender of Faded Jeans
Avid Reader, Music Lover, Appreciator of Art
Family Historian and Story Teller
Room Painter, Snow Blower Operator, Gardener
Bridge Player, Traveller
Volunteer, Lifelong Learner
(Copied from Margaret’s Memorial Card)

Now a few memories of Margaret Burdsall’s
Volunteer Days (and Nights) with the Thyroid Foundation of Canada

Words cannot describe or give due credit to Margaret for the many TFC volunteer roles and positions she held – for her contribution locally and nationally to the growth of the Foundation – for the support and leadership she gave to members, volunteers, patients, Board members and staff.
* In early 1980-1981 days, prior to TFC having published literature, Margaret sat in Diana Abramsky’s dining room with other Kingston volunteers, preparing packages for the many who wrote asking for help/info about thyroid disease.

* She held many Foundation positions – first on the National Board, later the Kingston Chapter Board, including Chapter President.

* She had computer skills before many had a computer –
needed when preparing national/chapter agendas, TFC documents and Thyrobulletin material.

* She had a way with words; a calm influence in discussions; a way of listening, simplifying and coming up with the correct remark that expressed what we were trying to do/say.

* She answered the Chapter “Help Line” – often called on to respond to the National “Help Line

* On train trips to national meetings, we met people who had questions about thyroid disease. Margaret would produce Foundation literature from her purse/briefcase. An amazing ambassador for TFC …!!

* When a volunteer was absent from a meeting due to illness/mishap, Margaret would produce a card for all to sign, mailing it on her return to Kingston.

* She organized/staffed the chapter office, regularly volunteered at Chapter Bingos and at literature display tables.

So I say “au revoir dear friend”….
A belated “Thank You” for your support to TFC – and to me!

Nathalie Gifford
Founding & Life Member
Thyroid Foundation of Canada

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Dr. Robert Volpe

1926 – 2005

Lottie Garfield

1922 – 2014

National Board Member, Toronto Chapter Board Member

My mother, the late Lottie Garfield, passed away on April 19, 2014 in her 92nd year. She is deeply missed by her family and friends, but also by the many thyroid patients and Foundation members whose lives she touched over her many years of involvement. She had been most identified with the National Board and Toronto Chapter. Working with Toronto presidents Bertha Lapidus, Joan Grosvenor, Joan Dawson, Margaret Hunter and myself she was a driving force in making the Toronto Chapter successful.

She first became involved in the Foundation in the 1980s, when I was diagnosed with thyroid disease and after she met the founder, Diana Abramsky, CM in Kingston. Many years before, she had lived there with my father, Bert, who was stationed with the Canadian Armed Forces. As the Foundation first started growing in the 1980s, she became known as a dedicated and energetic volunteer who played different leadership roles in the Foundation. Through her partnership and friendship with our founder, and our long-serving medical advisor, Dr. Robert Volpé, OC, and her experience in other organizations, she advanced the cause of improved thyroid education for patients both nationally and at the Toronto Chapter level. She was National Education and Research VP, Chapter Council Chair and Liaison Community Education in Toronto. With the support of Dr. Jay Silverberg and Dr. Ivy Fettes of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, she organized numerous Toronto patient education meetings at Sunnybrook, spoke to the media and community forums, and with Dr. Volpé, grew and consolidated our Health Guide series of education pamphlets for patients.

In 1995, in conjunction with a Toronto Chapter education meeting and the assistance of other Chapters, she helped organize the first patient education forum and booth with the Thyroid Foundation of America at an International Thyroid Congress in Toronto. Although this was a time when thyroid disease had a much lower profile than today, an audience of over 400 thyroid patients and members of the public attended. Also in attendance were representatives of a number of world thyroid patient organizations who, with the encouragement and leadership of Dr. Lawrence C. Wood of Boston, met during the Congress to form the first international thyroid patient organization, Thyroid Federation International. Such an organization had long been a dream of our founder, who worked with Dr. Wood in its realization. My mother was also involved in the organization of other thyroid patient education local forums such as at the Women’s Health Matters Forum and Expo of Women’s College Hospital and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

Although we can enumerate her many accomplishments for the Foundation, what I felt drove my mother was simply a desire to help people and improve their lives. She was determined and persuasive in this mission and, whether it is thyroid disease or other causes, I feel we can all learn from her inspiration.

On a more personal side, I can tell you that the volunteers closest to her in Toronto who have shared their memories with me, remember her for her approachability and compassion. She was always willing to listen to others’ health concerns and issues and, when possible, tried to advocate for them. She could be quite diplomatic but, when necessary, never hesitated to express a strong viewpoint on behalf of those she felt were most vulnerable. She is greatly missed.

Ellen Garfield

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Marjorie Miniely

1924 – 2018

Founder, London Chapter

90th Birthday – London ON – If they can do it, we can too!

For five years, in the early 1980s, Marjorie Miniely struggled with getting treatment for her thyroid condition as family physicians and endocrinologists disagreed about the dosage of medication she required. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada (TFC) was the only place she could turn to for help. “I read about the founding of the Thyroid Foundation in Kingston,” she stated recently. “It was a time when I knew I had thyroid problems and not much information.” She eagerly read anything that came from the TFC and she appreciated the encouragement and support she received. One letter she received from the national president at the time stated, “My own endocrinologist could not understand why I didn’t behave like a laboratory experiment! Textbook medicine must be tempered with clinical assessment.”

Trained as a teacher, Marjorie recognized the need for greater patient awareness in her city (London), so she contacted the closest chapter (Kitchener-Waterloo) and spoke with Margaret Evans. “Margaret was an inspiration even though she may not have known,” Marjorie says.

With a committed group of patients forming a volunteer Board and Dr. Merrill Edmonds as Medical Advisor, the London Chapter was launched in January 1986. For 25 years, they delivered up to 5 public awareness sessions annually on topics such as “Thyroid Tests”, “Thyroid Surgery”, “Sjorgen’s syndrome”, “Thyroid Problems in Children”, and “The Eyes and the Thyroid”.

Marjorie says, “When I started the London Chapter, Margaret Evans was President of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chapter and the closest chapter for me to consult with. I thought ‘If they can do it, London can do it too!’”

In 1989, the London Chapter presented Marjorie with a plaque that states:
“Marjorie saw a need and was committed to answering that need. Because of her vision, we are all assembled this evening. Because of her drive, we have a fully functioning chapter that is the envy of other chapters across the country. Her counsel is sought on the national board and she has earned the respect of all who know her. She has dedicated herself to the cause of the Thyroid Foundation and to those whose lives have been affected.”

Although the London Chapter has closed, the passion lives on in the London Fashion Show which raises funds for thyroid research and continues to raise awareness. Marjorie recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

She acknowledges that tremendous progress has been made since 1980 when there was almost no information about thyroid disease available to patients, but she feels that there still need to be improvements in the testing that reveals the right dose of medication for patients. She also feels that endocrinologists need to be trained to realize that not everyone responds the same way to medication.
She remains passionately committed to the TFC and encourages TFC to “Keep up the good work! There are lots of people out there needing information.”

Donna Miniely,

Past National President and daughter of Marjorie.

Thyrobulletin, Spring 2014

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Help us to Help Others

Awareness/Advocacy

  • Public education programs
  • Advocacy for improved thyroid care
  • Annual June is Thyroid Month activities

Patient Support

  • Toll free telephone Help line and email access for thyroid patients
  • Thyroid Health Guides and other educational material
  • Thyrobulletin newsletter
  • Thyroid.ca site with the latest news

Thyroid Research

  • Annual Research Awards program provides funding for projects carried out in Canadian thyroid laboratories.