Memories of Audrey Hozack (née Johnson, Dickie) 1920—2016
Audrey Hozack was one of the most unforgettable people I have ever met. During her term as Canadian Friends of Finland president from 1984 to 1987, she spearheaded the team that staged the 1986 Canadian première of Jean Sibelius’s Kullervo Symphony to an all-but-sold-out house at Roy Thomson Hall. She always claimed that riding on the TTC that evening to the performance was the only time she ever heard Finnish spoken on the subway.
She was one of the founding members of CFF. I can still picture her along with a group of other anxious looking people sitting in Bengt and Carita Gestrin’s spacious living room in 1981 as he, the honourary consul-general of Finland in Toronto at the time, outlined the Finnish government’s hopeful plans to emulate the success of the Finnish Society in the United Kingdom.
Audrey helped make that a reality thanks to the experience she gained over her 39-year career at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus. She started out as a secretary and when she retired in 1985 she held the title of Assistant Warden – Administration.
Her links to Finland were long and strong. They began in 1951 with the first Hart House Finnish Exchange. As a result of those connections, she recruited several former exchange members to serve as executives and board members during CFF’s formative years.
Looking back, Audrey’s life and career echoed many of the themes of Varpu Lindström’s academic work in women’s studies. When Vincent Massey set up Hart House in 1919, it was a male-only bastion like its forebears at Oxford University in England. In its early years, although many of the Hart House clerical staff were women, they were not permitted to eat in the dining hall. After Massey was made aware of the issue, he agreed to change the rules to make their lives more convenient. However, University of Toronto female students did not become full-fledged members of Hart House until the early 1970s after Massey had died.
Since Audrey’s retirement in 1985, two women have been appointed Wardens of Hart House. It is not hard to imagine that given Audrey’s administrative, financial management, people and other skills, had she arrived on the scene a couple of generations later, she too could have served as Warden.
To recognize her contributions to Finland, the Finnish government named her a Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland in 1986.
~ Ken Mark