It’s never easy when a friend passes away suddenly, but it’s even harder when that friend is as vibrant and full of life as Val Ross was. A writer and editor at the Globe and Mail, and before that at Macleans magazine and many other places, Val died on Sunday, just a few months after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. She was 57.
Although I only worked with Val directly for the past six months or so, in the Review section of the Globe, I spent several months before that working closely with her and several other Globe staffers as part of a “reimagination” project within the newspaper, and got to know her fairly well. She was funny and smart, and never hesitated to call a spade a spade — but did it in such a pleasant way that no one ever minded.
Having worked as a magazine editor as well as deputy comment editor for the Globe, the last year or so of Val’s life was spent writing about one of her passions: Canada’s cultural institutions, including the Royal Ontario Museum — where she took great delight in tormenting former Globe editor-in-chief William Thorsell. She was also writing a book about Robertson Davies. There’s more about her life here.
I was sitting about six feet away from Val in the Globe newsroom in October, when she suddenly cried out in pain and said that her left arm had seized up, as though she was having a sudden muscle spasm. Someone suggested she should go to the hospital, so she called herself a cab and was gone — and that’s the last time I saw her. She was a wonderful writer, and even more important, she was a wonderful person.