17 AUG 2015: To meet Heather Qually was to remember her. It wasn’t just the attitude, the air of confidence, the height, the posture, the glamour, the level, somewhat imperious gaze, the amused hint of a smile that seemed to hide some secret that she knew and that you never would, the sudden exuberant laugh – it was all that - along with a keen intelligence, a wicked wit, and an uncanny ability to be attractive, intimidating and approachable all at the same time.
Heather died last week in Vancouver, after a long battle with cancer. Her devastated friends and colleagues in the industry have generously shared their memories with us, and if you knew Heather we hope they bring back your own memories of a woman as generous as she was demanding and as easygoing as she could be tough. If you didn’t know her we hope you get some idea of the various sides of Heather Qually - a much loved friend, a dedicated, committed travel executive, and a truly great broad!
We have provided excerpts from her friends’ reminisces here – following the article you can click on their names to read the full text of their remarks.
Heather's friends remember:
Peter Linnett, who was CEO at Regent Holidays and Heather’s boss for more than a decade, writes, “To say that Heather will be missed is somehow to understate the blindingly obvious.
“There is no replacement; she was truly one of a kind. And I consider my time with her to be a privilege I will treasure always, and which will not be repeated, both as a colleague, during the heady years of introducing new holidays and travel ideas in the '80s and '90s, and as my friend.”
Jessie Morrissey remembers that when they worked at Regent, Heather referred to herself as the “brochure girl”, a name jokingly conferred by Bob Sutherland.
However, says Jessie, “As our VP of marketing, she was dynamic and had a work ethic that put us all to shame.
“I lovingly referred to her as Heather Bloody Qually. When we talked to each other on the phone I would ask if I was speaking to Heather Bloody Qually or she, knowing it was me phoning would answer, this is Heather Bloody Qually.”
Leslie Lorette vividly remembers that her, “first full-on HQ experience happened when I was a naive 22 year old travel agent in Regina. Exuding confidence, this beautiful, vivacious blond stormed a room of about 100 Travel people and immediately owned the place. I had never met anyone like that in my life and right then and there, I decided I wanted to be her friend.”
“Some people really are unique.” Says Vanessa Lee.
“They march to the beat of their own drummer, living their life large and swooping in on people, delighting them and changing their world forever. Heather Qually was such a woman. A great character, a remarkable wordsmith and talent, full of charm and just one of those you would call a great “broad” or a “dame”.”
“Heather Qually was a force of nature; easily one of the most memorable people I ever met in my 40-year travel career.” Says Phil Egan who worked with her at Regent.
“She was bright, and beautiful, and she could suck all the oxygen out of a room just by walking into it.”
Kim Clarke a close friend for many years, shared a memory that exemplifies Heather’s quick wit and ‘naughty’ humour.
Kim writes that Heather was invited over to dinner one evening. The doorbell rang and as she opened it, “Our son Trevor was only about three or four years old at the time and he ran to greet Heather. Without a word he dropped his pants and stood before Heather in all his glory. Heather just looked at me and, without missing a beat, said, "Now that's how I like to be greeted by a man at the door!"
Karen Linnett-Briggs writes that her first break as a photographer came via Heather who, “ever the true professional, combined her holiday time with work, to direct a photo shoot of the Island (Majorca). Although we all worked hard, from early morning to late at night, she made it lots of fun as well. She had a way with people that made you want to give your all and then some.”
John O’Neil remembers fondly her “ability to draw you in with her words, could take you from laughing to crying in mere moments.”
“HQ had a zest for life that few people have and we were both very lucky to know her and be counted as dear friends.”
Margie Henderson shared an email that she sent to Heather just last month:
“As I was walking through the parking lot of Fortinos today I had to smile remembering our lovely Saturday lunch meetings, chatting and complaining and laughing, discussing whatever was going on in our lives at that time. I miss it. Biiiig Hug, Margie”
And, Lorol Nielsen, sums it up, “We will talk about her for the rest of our own lives because there are so many things that separated Heather from ordinary … her legendary work habits, her refreshing directness, her howl of laughter and appreciation of the absurd. Her impatience with lazy or careless behaviour. Her outright glamour. Do you know anybody that genuinely defines real glamour, the kind that was important to the generation prior to ours, or at least mine?”
Heather Qually. Truly one of a kind.
Read all of what her friends said: