By Karen Gross / Photography by Adam Pulicicchio

From the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of Nexus.

Cheryl Anne Stacey Barlow, 1972 – 2016 Cheryl Anne Stacey Barlow, JD 1997, passed away last October after fighting breast cancer with the courage, determination and positivity that defined her. At law school—where she earned a reputation for excellence, kindness and integrity and graduated with a Cressy Student Leadership Award—and at McMillan LLP, where she spent her entire legal career, Cheryl met many of her dearest friends, and acted as a mentor and guide to young women and men just starting out.

Seeking a way to honour Cheryl’s memory, it was Bindu Cudjoe, JD 1999, who initially came up with the idea of establishing a bursary in her name. Within weeks she and several friends had surpassed their goal of $25,000, almost doubling it over just a few months.

“It’s been amazing to see how many people so quickly and passionately want to join in, to do something good with all of this sadness,” Cudjoe says. “I know her family was overwhelmed by the response. You don’t always realize the impact that someone has until you see a visible display like that.”

Cheryl’s father, Barry Stacey, made that clear when he spoke at a reception establishing the award in June. “We cannot tell you how proud it makes us feel as a family, to see the law school honour Cheryl in such a beautiful way,” he said. “She loved her time at U of T law school and made many lifelong friends.”

The bursary, with matching money from the law school, will be awarded annually, with a preference given to students from the Atlantic provinces. Cheryl grew up in Marystown, Newfoundland and Labrador, and remained a proud and dedicated Newfoundlander her entire life. It’s where her parents and huge extended family still live. And it's the province where she married Greg Barlow last year, in a joyous wedding celebration just two months before her death, formalizing the loving family she had already established with him and his daughters, Sarah and Chelsea, in Oakville, Ontario.

“She walked down the aisle of the Basilica. It’s a huge church in St. John's. She got out of her wheelchair and walked down the aisle with her parents,” remembers her closest friend, Nicole Frew, whom she also met while articling at McMillan. “She had an amazing will. She willed herself through that. And she was at her reception until one in the morning.”

Frew and Cheryl were like sisters. They traveled the world together, shared an obsession with sports and sporting events, and a love of red wine. They were also both athletes—tall and lithe—and people often confused one with the other. Frew says she eventually answered to both her name and Cheryl’s. “It’s very hard to talk about her in the past tense because I don’t think of her that way,” she says. “There are so many good memories; it’s like she’s still here.”

Andrew McFarlane, JD 1997, attended law school with Cheryl and then articled and worked with her. He says her illness didn’t stop her from hosting a Canada Day party last year, where she made sure everyone had a good time. McFarlane also danced at her wedding, and remembers with fondness a beaming Cheryl partying on the dance floor, wheelchair and all. His voice catches when he talks about the kind of friend Cheryl was when his own sister was sick two years ago.

“My younger sister lost her own fight with cancer a year before Cheryl,” he says. “In the midst of all of her own troubles, Cheryl still found time to be there for me.”

Above all, says Nicole Frew, Cheryl stayed true to herself, her family and her friends. Her courage and grace live on through the award that carries her name.

“The award is a reflection of the impact that Cheryl had on so many people. For the student who is awarded this bursary, if they have a fraction of her impact, they will have led a very successful life.”

The University of Toronto is committed to honouring Cheryl’s legacy and will match, through its Boundless Promise, income generated by your gift in perpetuity. Click here to donate online.

For further information on this memorial bursary, contact Wasila Baset, Associate Director, Alumni Programs at 416-946-8227 or wasila.baset@utoronto.ca

Reception for Cheryl Anne Stacey-Barlow memorial bursary