Canada’s first lady of jazz, Eleanor Collins, dead at 104

Eleanor Collins, Canada’s first lady of jazz, passed away Sunday morning at Surrey Memorial Hospital at the age of 104, her family says.

Collins was a groundbreaking figure in Canadian entertainment history.

Among her accomplishments, she became the first Black woman to host her own national TV series — The Eleanor Show.

Collins was born in Edmonton in 1919 but moved in the late 1930s to the Vancouver area, where she would meet her partner of 70 years, Richard Collins. The couple had four children together.

“In the late 1940s, the young Collins family moved to their new home in the then all-white neighbourhood of Burnaby. To combat the ignorance and misguided attitudes of her new neighbours, the Collins’ immersed themselves in their new community by participating in local activities, events and organizations. By showing their new neighbours that they were ‘ordinary people with the same values and concerns as they had,’ Eleanor and her family broke down barriers by inviting others to see beyond skin colour,” Collins’ family shared.

In 2014, at the age of 95, she was invested with the Order of Canada.

“People often asked Eleanor her secret to longevity and for sure it was not genetics as no one in her family lived beyond their 50’s. But she subscribed to a protocol of diet and exercise which held her in good stead all her life,” the family said.

The family says a private service will be held, but in lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to be made to two of Collins’ favourite charities: B.C. Black History and Awareness Society and the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) Vancouver.

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