Dianne Martin – 59
March 19, 1945 – December 20, 2004
I didn’t know Dianne Martin. I had just started coming to Cherry Beach in 2004 and her bench was in the process of being installed. It was the first memorial bench at Cherry.
She is described as a force in the legal world, an advocate for women, the underprivileged, and wrongly accused.
One of a handful of female criminal lawyers, Martin was called to the bar in 1978 and was trail blazer for women in the profession.
Martin died of a heart attack on December 20, 2004. She was 59.
I spoke with Ingrid Gadsden, Ramsay’s mom, who remembers walking Cherry Beach with Dianne and her two collies, Magic and McLeod for many years.
Gadsden spearheaded the bench for Martin and collected donations from fellow CB’ers. Here’s an excerpt from the notice informing people of the project
“While we all still miss Dianne, we know she’d be pleased to be remembered this way. More than anything in the world, Dianne loved sharing this park – and her space with dog lovers. A bench in her honour will give us all a chance to sit and remember how she once filled this park with laughter and good times”
Gadsden’s memorial published in the Globe and Mail mid 2005 describes a wonderful person and friend, her admiration for Martin shines through
“Friend, lawyer, teacher, dog lover, Cherry Beach
Born March 19, 1945 in Regina, Sask.
Died Dec. 20, 2004 in Toronto of a heart attack, aged 59.
Since her death, many have written about Dianne’s extraordinary legal career, her dedication to the Innocence Project, a program she co-founded at York University, and her love of teaching law – all of them outstanding achievements in what was a rich and satisfying life. There were, however, other facets of her life that made her memorable to many who had little familiarity with her professional life. To most of those folks, she was simply “Dianne – Magic and MacLeod’s mom”.
Magic and MacLeod are Dianne’s beloved collies. Almost every morning for more than eight years, she walked them in the off-leash park at Toronto’s Cherry Beach. Clad in gloves, boots, parkas and toques in winter, sandals and colourful drapey smocks in summer, Dianne was a familiar, welcoming sight. For the first few years she’d arrive as close to sunrise as possible, hiking through snowdrifts, mud puddles or knee-high grass to stand at the point and watch the sun rise over the Leslie Spit. It was like watching a painting come to life, she’d say.
Dianne never lacked for walking companions at Cherry Beach – humans or dogs. She drew them to her through her strength of personality and the affectionate, generous spirit she exuded. Pockets jammed with plastic poop-bags and homemade, organic liver treats, she discovered the names of hundreds of dogs long before she knew their owners. For that alone, she earned our admiration, but as the years slipped by, we loved her for so much more. She attracted us, like bees to pollen.
Walking the dirt paths in all kinds of weather, she entertained us with eye-popping stories and opinions on everything from cross examination techniques to butterfly migration and the science behind DNA. There wasn’t a topic she couldn’t talk about intelligently. Plot swings on The West Wing, (her favourite TV show), gardening, herbal remedies, Prairie politics, and the birth of the feminist movement – Dianne shared her ideas and listened to ours. Conversations were always spirited, passionate and invigorating. Full of life and with a razor-sharp mind, she adored a good argument and a well-phrased retort. Topics segued effortlessly, one into another, often punctuated by rollicking bursts of laughter.
Cherry Beach was her special place, a gift of nature that she treasured. As the seasons changed, there was always something different to see, something new to talk about. Flocks of geese in a ‘V’ formation, or a blustery northwest wind reminded Dianne of her prairie days. Pale green buds on trees in spring, buttercups and daisies in summer, Monarch butterflies and masses of chicory blossoms and St. John’s Wort in fall – all these were catalysts for discussions that went on for weeks and morphed into dozens of unrelated, equally fascinating topics. Dianne left us far too soon.
Today, Magic, Dianne’s 13-year old tri-colour collie lives with Ingrid. MacLeod, her 18 month old sable collie sleeps on the sofa at Linda Howard’s home. We love and nurture them the same way Dianne did. We walk with them along the same paths we walked with Dianne, but these days the park seems quieter and a little emptier. Dianne had a powerful and unforgettable presence. That’s why, in her honour, the Cherry Beach dog owners are donating funds to buy a permanent bench that will overlook the Leslie Spit at the entrance to the Eastern Gap. It was Dianne’s favourite viewing point. We’ll inscribe it with her name, a token of our affection for a remarkable, generous and inspiring friend who left us with heaps of enduring memories.”
by Ingrid Gadsden and Linda Howard
Jim Smith, Bella’s dad and a former student of Martin’s, echos Gadsden’s account of the Innocence Project and elaborates further
She fought to have midwifery get established, to put limits and accountability on police, to get wrongly convicted people out of jail, and a whole bunch of other neat causes. There is now a yearly Dianne Martin Medal awarded for contributions to social justice through law.
She was a dog lover throughout.
She was also my evidence law professor, gave me one of my few A+ in law school, and tried to get me an articling spot with another woman criminal lawyer. She had a huge presence, and a wonderful, wonderful laugh . She lived alone with her two dogs she was devoted to them and walked them every day at Cherry Beach – which is where I discovered her when I started bringing Bella down as a puppy around Christmas 2003.”
For further information on Martin’s brilliant career and contributions visit yFile York University’s Daily News
A big thank thank you to Karen Lewis for her research contribution