Tribute to Maria Worton

Maria Worton, 2008 © Scott Weinstein
Maria Worton, 2008 © Scott Weinstein

Maria Worton was fearless, compassionate and committed to social justice. She was funny, brilliant and sometimes enraged.

She started life in Wiltshire, England, near Stonehenge. An argument with a priest during confession became her first tussle with authority. Setting the standard for what would become her talk-the-talk-and-walk-the-walk bearing, she walked away from Catholicism.

Her upbringing spanned two continents and she arrived in Canada at the age of seven. Back in Europe during her late teens and twenties, Maria went on happy, months-long forays into Egypt, Israel and Pakistan, traversing the Himalayas by bus, hitchhiking and donkey. She loved foreign and untried places but to her, people themselves were the adventure.  

In London, she played the flute and accordion with a women’s street band called Blow Crazy. She felt called to social work though her superiors often chided her, saying that she took her clients’ suffering too personally. After marrying Dimitri and giving birth to her beloved daughter Emily, Maria settled in Montréal. Following the end of her marriage, she met her partner Scott and they shared their lives for 18 years. 

Early on, she’d embraced socialist theory and so became a regular presence at local demonstrations against war and for social equity and fairness. She volunteered with two groups reflecting those beliefs—Eau Secours and Échec à la Guerre. Her academic work, too, reflected her political commitments. At Concordia University, she completed her Master’s in sociology with a thesis opposing the privatization of municipal water systems.

To increase life quality for her family and neighbours, she started Open Windows. The organization sought to reduce car traffic on St. Urbain, the street where she’d made her home within a cooperative. 

For Maria, an insatiable reader who loved novels and poetry, the public library was a second home. Montréal Serai and the Salon Rouge writers’ group, where she found loving comrades and friends, became other outlets for her creativity and intense literacy.

Despite her intellect, she possessed a mysterious deficit disallowing punctuality of any kind, as her friends and loved ones will attest. She wasn’t on time even to her own dinner parties. Occasionally, when guests arrived, she would still be at the store shopping for food. She was so focused on being present for the conversations that Scott would have to take over her cooking.

Besides Scott, Maria is survived by her daughter Emily, mother Patricia, step-father Charles, sister Theresa, granddaughter Mila-Rose, Emily’s partner Patrick, and a global network of friends who loved her dearly.

Maria’s handwritten note quoting Maya Angelou
Maria’s handwritten note quoting Maya Angelou


We set off
      to the lighthouse
six recalcitrant kids
      in tow
climbing up and
    away from
a viridian sea
    oh but why
they grumble then
    through the gorse,
a clearing of
  sky above
foaming chalk cliffs
  the gnashing jagged
white teeth
of a Leviathan
    we climb and ride
its rolling back
      in galling gusts
whipping our heels
    snagging eyelids
snatching snot
      out noses
wagging ears
    blowing us
    inland then
back out to sea
    willfully, contrary
a tantrum
    in a tempest of
dogs driven feral and
    children quite mad
grinning, grimacing
    lashing long hair  
sheets of nut-brown,
    strawberry blonde,
on vertical hold
upside down
so seriously knotted
  deliriously undone
we are

         Maria Worton

Janet Singleton is a novelist, journalist and writing instructor who divides her life between Canada, her friend, and Denver, her home. Her work has been published on three continents. She has received a number of awards for journalism and fiction, and her novel This Side of the Sky won the Colorado Book Award.