'I'm proud of her,' First female Windsor mayor Elizabeth Kishkon dies at 87

The first and only female Windsor mayor Elizabeth Kishkon has died at 87. She is being remembered by the community as a caring and approachable person.

Elizabeth Kishkon held office from 1983 to 1985

Former Windsor Mayor Elizabeth Kishkon (centre) was honoured with the renaming of a city park after herself in September last year. (Kaitie Fraser/CBC)

The first and only female Windsor mayor, Elizabeth Kishkon, has died at age 87 — peacefully on Aug. 29.

Kishkon's health was declining in her later years, said her eldest daughter, Jan Kishkon. She "slipped away" around 3:15 p.m.

As Jan Kishkon recalled her mother's life, she described her as an "accomplished woman." After her mother held mayoral office from 1983-1985, she was on the Ontario Human Rights Commission for six years.

"She was very, very proud of that job. Human rights were very important to her."

Kishkon fought for Peche Island to stay untouched by developers. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

And before Elizabeth Kishkon was elected mayor in the 80s, she was first a city councillor for two non-consecutive terms ,according to her eldest.

Jan Kishkon said her mother's interest in politics began with Peche Island, which was on the docket for a residential community development, and she became part of the Save Peche Island Committee.

Ward 9 Coun. Hilary Payne named Kishkon's fight for Peche Island "a major legacy."

"She was furiously opposed to that," said Payne.

With Peche Island being a popular spot for people to explore with the offering of a shuttle boat service, Payne said Kishkon's efforts played a part in keeping it undeveloped.

Payne worked with Kishkon when she was mayor. At the time, he was chief administrative officer at the city.

The one interaction with Kishkon he remembers, however, was when she casted him for a broadcast program at CBC Radio in the 70s.

"She asked me to come on CBC Radio at 8 o'clock in the morning to talk about the council meeting the previous Monday night," Payne said.

After her career as mayor

Payne said at city hall, Kishkon was approachable and easy to talk to.

And for one apartment guard who worked the night shift, he would agree.

"One of the nicest ladies you could talk to," said Douglas Roberts. "She used to bring us coffee down, which she didn't have to do, but she always did."

For two years, he had worked at her Riverside apartment, which Jan Kishkon said the former mayor had lived in for 46 years.

After Kishkon finished her term as mayor, Payne said she didn't run for re-election and she had dropped out of the public eye.

Until last September that is, when an east-end park in the city was renamed after her.

Mayor Drew Dilkens said after meeting Kishkon for the first time at a long-term care home, he had wanted to do something to honour her. 

"The city has not recognized in any formal way, its first female mayor. And I think it's the right thing to do," he described his thought process at the time.

Kishkon was involved in municipal politics as an active community member who went to council meetings for fun, her eldest daughter remembers. (@drewdilkens/Twitter)

Kishkon was a big advocate for public spaces like parks. s mayor and she attended the unveiling ceremony.

And Ward 8 Coun. Bill Marra is happy to see her personally experience her impact being honoured by the city she served for years through the park's renaming.

"I'm just thrilled that we're able to do that while Elizabeth was still with us," said Marra.

Mayor Drew Dilkens says Kishkon's push to have the queen visit the city brought a lot of beautification projects to Windsor. (@drewdilkens/Twitter)

While he had never interacted with Kishkon, Marra remembers her as a mayoral candidate who ran for office in the first election in which he cast his first vote.

There was a debate held at Marra's high school, the now-closed W. D. Lowe Secondary School in downtown Windsor.

"I remember she had tremendous presence. She had an impact on the entire audience because she was articulate, it sounded like she knew what she was talking about," he said. And she convinced him to vote for her.

Even though he didn't end up being involved in municipal politics as a community member following that election, Marra remembers that Queen Elizabeth II had come to Windsor under Kishkon's watch as mayor.

"It was a wonderful privilege for our community to host the queen," he said.

Elizabeth Kishkon is survived by three of her five children and her only grandson, Kevin.

Jan said her mother was a private person and the family will be having a closed memorial to honour her life at a later time.

She remembers her mother as someone who was incredibly involved in the community and did a lot of public service in her lifetime.

"She kept busy, that's for sure," said Jan Kishkon. "I'm proud of her for that. We all are."