In Memory of Jeanette J.A. Holden






Messages (continued) 

From: Brian Hennen, Professor of Family Medicine, Dalhousie University

"I had the privilege of meeting Jeanette Holden shortly before her final illness challenged her.  I recall her as very knowledgeable, passionate and caring.  Her personal story of delayed recognition of a brother’s ‘autism’ was generously shared as a profound lesson for those health professionals in a primary care position of being in touch with the skills of early recognition and intervention. I was delighted to play a small part in the HEIDI project which she led.  As a colleague from Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University,  I am proud to have met her, to have learned from her and to have been even a remote collaborator. She has opened a new window of understanding Autism and has earned a place in making a difference for so many afflicted individuals and their families."

From: Rena Franklin, former undergraduate work study student
"Jeanette inspired me. She was the first person to tell me to look outside of the box and to find a career that spoke to me. As a result, I became a drama therapist who works with children and adolescents with special needs including those on the autism spectrum. I thank Jeanette everyday in my heart for helping me to create a life for myself that I can be proud of. Jeanette, you will be missed."

From: Kristina Calli, ASD-CARC Research Assistant (BC team)

"My first interaction with Jeanette was as a student volunteer who was invited to listen in on the ASD-CARC videoconference series.  Her thoughtful insight, questions and comments were always of the most sincere and compassionate nature.  Her consideration and respect for each team member as an individual, whether it be a student volunteer such as myself or a collaborating PI, deeply impressed me, as did her sincere interest and passion for each unique field of study.  It was evident that her true motivation was helping those individuals who were affected and their families.

I had an opportunity to interact with Jeanette more personally last year while we were attempting to select representative individuals within the phenotype clusters for GWAS. It was through these e-mail exchanges and telephone calls that her wisdom, patience, and kindness became even more evident to me.  Her genuine interest in myself as well as the research, truly touched me.  Her personal attention toward a research assistant miles away whose contribution was likely a relatively minor impact on the large consortium she directed, was sincerely impressive.  This genuine nature, lack of ego and sincere passion to help the individuals affected has stayed with me, and, along with Suzanne's mentorship which has been much the same, has motivated my interest in the field of Autism research and Medical Genetics. I feel the same sentiments can be shared by all who have been fortunate enough to work with Jeanette.  I am truly thankful to have worked with her, however little I did."

From: Fatima Solehdin
"I am deeply saddened to hear of Jeanette's passing.  We certainly have lost a great scientist and a great collaborator and a mentor.  I am sure her legacy will continue through ASD-CARC and the researchers she created.  She was very dedicated, determined, enthusiastic, and worked tirelessly for the global autism community.  We will miss her."

From: Alexander Greer, Executive Director, Ontario Mental Health Foundation

"On behalf of the Board and staff of the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Dr. Holden. Dr Holden’s ground-breaking research was funded for many years by the Foundation. All of us are deeply saddened by your loss."

From: Grace Paterson, PhD, Dalhousie Health Informatics Program, Interim Director, Halifax, NS
"I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of my childhood friend, and later academic colleague, Jeanette Holden.  Jeanette was full of love, which she showered on family and friends. I was fortunate to be a member of her healing circle, and received regular updates as she struggled to overcome her illness. She was always positive and shared delightful insights. Jeanette sat in front of me from elementary school through to high school, and we continued our friendship at UBC. She was academically gifted, and I was delighted to reconnect with her at a CIHR PhDPostDoc Strategic Training Program event. On May 6, 2011, I visited with Jeanette, her mom Ann, brother Jim and Jim's caregiver at their home. What a wonderful visit. Soon the tulips and daffodils will bloom again and we will all be reminded of Jeanette's life and love. My condolences to her mom and brothers."

From: Susan Creighton, Genetic Counsellor
"Teacher, mentor, colleague, friend. I have known Jeanette in each of these capacities over the past 30 years. She was an inspiration. She brought vitality and a love of life to all she did. Her presence quickly filled a room. She was a loving, caring and compassionate woman who will truly be missed by the legions whose lives she has touched."

From: Carla Hoyme
"My heart is so very saddened at this tremendous loss of a wonderful, caring human being. We went to high school together and she was so well loved and respected by all her friends.She is now soaring with the angels."

From: Wendy Cowley

"I was a high school and university classmate of Jeanette's.  She was always a caring person. I remember when she first took a genetics class with Dr. Suzuki and how it excited her.  Her passion and enthusiasm carried her far.  When we reconnected after she became ill, we discussed one of my nephews who has Asperberger's. She was interested in helping others when she was clearly very ill herself.  She will be missed."

From: Anita Lawrence
"I went to High School with Jeanette, and she was in the geek circle along with me and a few other perennial egg-heads.  Even after so many years, I remember her laughter, humour, enthusiasm and passion for life.  In Biology,she was the one with the incredible printing alongside beautifully drawn pictures of cells and dissections.  That should have been our first clue. I am so sorry to hear of her passing.  My condolences to the family....I am sure Jeanette's bright spark is sorely missed in your lives.  I wish you healing so that you can just remember all of the good things rather than the pain of her passing. Be well."

From: Klaus and Margaret Brasch, retired to Flagstaff, Arizona
"We knew Jeanette during her years at Queen’s and we were always impressed with her enthusiasm toward all aspects of science but in particular to genetic disorders. She was a fun, warm person and despite the fact that we had lost touch in recent years, we were deeply saddened by her passing when we heard from Brad White today. Our warmest regards and condolences to her Mother and Brothers as well as to all her friends and colleagues in the autism community."

From: Cynthia Howroyd, SLP, How Creative Solutions (
It was with deep regret and sadness that I received news of Jeanette's passing.  Despite her brilliant mind, Jeanette enjoyed the world with child-like delight.  I remember with fondness travelling throughout Australia with Jeanette conducting autism workshops.  Her ability to find great delight in a unique flower or scene made her a joy to be around.  Her ability to connect with families on an emotional level made her an inspiration. The will never be anyone like her and I will always miss her.

From: Rick M. Healey, BSc, MSc, Assistant Deputy Minister, Employment Support, Dept. Municipal Affairs, Government of Newfoundland and Labroador
"I didn't personally know Dr. Holden, however a number of years ago I attended a conference wherein Dr. Holden was an organizer and presenter.  I honestly say, that while I only ever met her at that time along with a hundred other people, she left a lasting impression.  I was relatively new to the area of autism and was struck by her unwavering focus and determination.  She was inspiring with her commitment and I never forgot that.
While I have moved away from this area in my career, I still remember this sensational lady. Please pass along my sincerest condolences to her colleges, friends, and family."

From: Elizabeth Kay-Raining Bird

"I wanted to express my sadness at the death of Jeanette Holden. It is certainly a loss to the autism community in Ontario and throughout Canada. The impact of her work will live long after her."

From: Heather Fawcett, member of the ASD-CARC Parent Advisory Committee
"I got to know Jeanette through the Parent Advisory Committee of ASD-CARC. What struck me about Jeanette besides her dedication to everything autism was how sincere and authentic a person she was. Despite her vast knowledge and credentials Jeanette was as down to earth as it gets. Her single motivation was to help people and families with ASD and even while ill worked to this purpose with great enthusiasm and optimism. Jeanette's positive spirit will continue to inspire us all."

From: Casey van der Grient, ASD-CARC PAG member, former Chapter president for Ottawa Autism Ontario and board director for AO
"Please accept my deepest condolences for the untimely passing of Jeannette Holden. Jeannette and I were on the board of directors for Autism Ontario which required frequent trips to Toronto. I would swing by and pick her up in Kingston on my way from Ottawa. We would then spend 2 hours in heated and often hilarious discussion about any manner of topics ranging from the latest in Autism research to her love of the community to which she was such a central part of and finally to Jim and her Mum. She was such a passionate, unifying and humane voice in the autism community and will be desperately missed."

From: Anne Cherny, mother of three children (15 year old son with ASD and intellectual disability)
"Jeanette started up a conversation with me at recess at the Inaugural World Autism Conference in Melbourne, Australia in 2002 and I continue to participate in on line surveys regarding ASD, as always so pleased to contribute to research which will help find answers for our community who are challenged with ASD. Please keep up her excellent research to improve the lives of those with ASD and their families and to educate the wider community."

From: Kathryn Knight (and daughter Sarah)

"I met Dr. Holden when she spoke at an information session in North Bay a few years ago.  I was just entering the world of Autism as my daughter had just been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.  Before she spoke, she was out in the lobby talking with a small group of parents and I joined the conversation.  She was so down to earth and you could feel her drive and heartfelt genuine interest into studying and understanding our unique family members.  At that time, I did not know of her personal connection.  It was only after she spoke a while later that I found out why.  I remember when she and I were discussing the family correlations and she was genuinely interested in what I had to say.  She was almost excited to hear that my nephew and neice, both from different siblings of mine were also diagnosed.  I remember her saying, "We like families like yours!"  I was glad to help out and the very next day had both my daughters give a DNA sample to further the research.  It is a program I am proud to be a part of.  Dr. Holden will be missed, of that I am positive.  The very least we can do is continue her work so we can better understand ASD, not so we can fix those who are under that umbrella, but so we can marvel at their differences and better understand their world so we can all live happier, more fulfilling lives."

From: James Bebko, and the Bebko lab (Kristen McFee, Gayle Goldstein, Jessica Schroeder, Kerry Wells, Lisa Hancock, Carly McMorris, Stephanie Brown, Magali Segers
"I regret not being able to make it to the memorial service for Jeanette, but wanted to share some fond memories of her. I first met Jeanette at a conference perhaps 20 years ago when she gave a talk that was quite stimulating about possible subtle genetic mechanisms in developmental disabilities. I had not thought previously about that micro-level of looking at such issues and came away thinking from her talk. It was over a decade later that we began to collaborate through ASD-CARC, and I continued to learn from her throughout our collaborations.

Jeanette valued student involvement so much and so clearly, and we all felt  that, as a result of the CIHR Training Grant that she inspired, we were truly training the next generation of professionals in our fields. In my lab at York alone, more than a dozen future Clinical Psychologists were directly involved, and a number of others more indirectly. Jeanette's generosity with her time and her patience explaining her ideas and listening to ours were so appreciated by my students and by me.

The field has lost an energetic and determined figure; but it has gained so much from Jeanette's work and her advocacy for families, for research and for students. All of us here at York will miss our time together, but feel enriched by having had the opportunity to work together in such an important cause."

From: The Bourcier Family (Eric, Monica, Sharon & Gilbert)

"A deep sadness enters our hearts knowing that Dr. Holden has departed this world.  Thank You  Dr. Jeanette Holden for helping us understand Autism by seeing the World through their eyes.  You made us feel  so important in your research you gave us so much respect.  Heaven has been blessed with your presence now  just like we were to have known you. You were an Angel who touched many lives.  We shall continue on this journey helping your research. To Embrace your Legacy.."

From: Shoda Gonzalez, MD, New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities

"Dear Jeanette,

What a journey it has been
This life you have led
Too soon you were taken
The flowers yet to fully bloom.

But who are we to question
This roadmap of one's destiny
And who are we to covet
Another drop, another sip of borrowed nectar?

What matters is the essence
Of a life so devoted
A passion so unrelenting
A mission so enriching.

Be yourself proud
Be forever joyful
For the new paths created
As your journey moves on."

From: Nancy Miles, ASD-CARC Parent Advisory Group member, Waterloo, ON
"Jeanette Holden was a wonderful treasure.

With her bright warm spirit and cheerful attitude she was easy to love…and because of those same qualities loved others easily.

Despite her level of achievements and expertise she respected ordinary people and their experiences, and this is evident in that she established a Parent Advisory Group for the autism research consortium she founded. She saw that our observations were valid and that we were an important resource to the effort to understand autism. Being invited to sit on the PAG and get to know Jeanette was, indeed, an honour and a privilege for me.

She celebrated life, and I found her joy to be contagious. She was a delight to be around. Her love for her family was a priority and it was so lovely to behold.

Dear Jeanette, I will miss you."

From: Larry Gill
"I am so sorry to hear of Jeanette's passing.  I went to high school with her and shared a car pool with her to UBC for a year. I remember so well her enthusiastic praise for this new young professor Dr. Suzuki with whom she had classes.  As the years passed  I began to hear and see what she was talking about.  I lost touch with her but never forgot the good times we has riding in my old truck to UBC each morning.  She was a wonderful person and contributed very much to society and will be sorely missed by friends and colleagues alike.  God bless Jeanette."

From: Cynthia Forster-Gibson, PhD, MD, Clinical Geneticist
"Unfortunately I am unable to attend the memorial service being held today for Dr Jeanette Holden.  I am sure there will be many tributes to a woman who was a scientist, care-giver and mentor and who never lost hope.  It is inspriational to me that she continued to "think outside the box" and find ways to help Jim that have allowed him to blossom."

From: Natalia Novosedlik, former undergraduate thesis student

"I was so surprised and saddened to learn of Jeanette's passing.  I knew that she had been ill in the past but had no idea that her illness had returned.  I know that life must be very different without her for so many people, and I send my deepest condolences to her family and everyone who was close to her.  I am a former undergrad student of Jeanette's.  Jeanette approached her research with a kind of passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity that you just don't see very often. I really think that passion is something that will live on through those she taught, those she helped and those she inspired."

From: Danielle L. Andreassi, Fragile X Syndrome, Disability, & Discrimination Awareness Advocacy

"Simply devastating to hear of her loss, both AJ and myself regarded her as our Doctor, our friend, our mento, our family.  I owe everything I know about parenting a child with fragile x, autism, special needs to her.  I loved sharing her stories about Jim and all the wonderful milestones he was making and how proud she was of him.  My heart ached when she got sick with leukemia but I knew she would beat it.... I couldn't keep up with her as I too got sick with ovarian cancer.  My heart now breaks for her loss, and the loss of her wonderful laugh, love and support for all the wonderful people she loved and helped in this world.  The world has lost a wonderful angel."

From: Erika Marquardt-Wenger, former secretary of the Dept. of Cell Biology, Biozentrum der Universitat Basel

Certainly late, too late, that I just today got across your obituary for Jeanette. I have met Jeanette in the 70th when she came as a  postdoctoral fellow to Walter Gehring´s laboratory. It was the early days of the Biozentrum, an intense and ever so interesting time, lucky to be there at the time to build up the very successful Department of Cell Biology at the Biozentrum in Basel. I was the departemental secretary and obviously got to know all our postdocs well, rather in a personal than scientific way. I had a very close relationship with Jeanette and she was always ever so grateful to come to my office for assistance or to have a laugh. We never forgot the day when she lost one of her contact lenses and we both crowled in the street in front of the Biozentrum, and mind you, were lucky enough to find it!! This and many other funny stories happened and Jeanette would always be good for a party, outing or BBQ. We kept contact over all these years, as with many other former postdocs like David Ish-Horowicz, Ruth Steward, Eric Wieschaus and his wife Trudi.
Already ill – 2009 after a scientific meeting in Italy - she came to visit us in France at my brother´s château in the Allier, where we work with handicapped and for her it was obviously like “opening an open door”! She was very devoted and interested in each of our 14 guests. For her it was kind of a short sabbatical, working for a week in practice with her field of research. I then followed her “Krankengeschichte”, always hoping that she would beat the illness. But she did not and I have lost a good friend and keep her with sadness but also a smile in my memory. Also my sons Martin and Peter remember her well and devote their respect.
I had also met her family in Kingston in 1985, strolled with her and Jim through her most gorgeous garden – she indeed had “green fingers”. I wonder how she coped with all this  besides working so hard and successful in autism research and other. She never gave me the impression that it was a burden. It must have been very hard for her having to leave mother and Jim too soon and I indeed hope that they found a way to cope without her. This, I wish for Jeanette, such that she can rest in peace.