Sat. May 21st, 2022

Yvonne De Jonge would also help start an empowerment group, Impact Heritage, to help black youth embrace their culture and understand their history.

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In the early 1970s, when Nu Skin Hair Fashions opened its doors, it was so much more than a beauty salon.

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One of Ottawa’s first black-owned businesses, the hair salon in the center was a lively gathering place for members of the black community. It featured stylists who knew how to care for thick, tight hair, offered cosmetics designed for black skin and even sold records — reggae, ska, calypso, Latin jazz — that were hard to find elsewhere in the city.

Yvonne de Jonge, an immigrant from Guyana, co-founded the store. Educated from Carleton University, a civil servant and mother of two, de Jonge was also an entrepreneur who recognized the need for a salon that served the city’s small, predominantly West Indian black community.

De Jonge would later help start a community governance group, Impact Heritage, to help black youth embrace their culture and understand their history.

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“She reinvented herself as many times as she needed to to make sure we were able to achieve our goals and dreams,” said her daughter, Adrienne Coddett, high school teacher and activist. “She’s the friendliest part of me.”

De Jonge died on September 25 from spreading ovarian cancer. She was 79.

“She was the unsung hero type,” said Millicent Byrne, who left her longtime friend as a quiet community builder and “the rainbow in my cloud:” “Smart, strong, resilient, compassionate, clever and oh-so-funny, Yvonne was at all ways a great woman. ”

A de Jonge family photo of Yvonne de Jonge with her children Adrienne, left and Angela.
A de Jonge family photo of Yvonne de Jonge with her children Adrienne, left and Angela. Photo of the young family /Distribute

Yvonne Maureen de Jonge was the youngest of seven children born to Evelyn and Cyril de Jonge, a railway station master in Guyana.

In 1963, de Jonge traveled as an ambitious young student to Canada, where she was to study at the University of Alberta. During a stay in Toronto, however, she was offered a retail job, which she accepted after finding out how cold Alberta could be in the winter.

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She lived in Toronto for three years before marrying her high school boyfriend, Randolph Coddett, a graduate of Howard University from Guyana.

The Ottawa family in April 1967, two months before their first daughter, Adrienne, was born. Another daughter, Angela, would follow.

In Ottawa, de Jonge studied sociology and psychology at Carleton, and after graduation she went to work in Bell Canada, while also launching Nu Skin Hair Fashions. She later trained as a hairdresser and worked full time in the Somerset Street salon.

The salon was a popular meeting place and people often played cards and dominoes there after hours. “It was here that all the talk went,” Byrne said.

For years, de Jong’s family home in Pineview also served as an unofficial reception center for newcomers to the city’s black community. “Our house was always lively on the weekends,” Coddett said.

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In the 1970s, de Jonge helped launch Impact Heritage, a program that brought black children together on Saturday mornings to learn about black history and culture – topics that were mostly ignored in schools at the time and distorted in the mainstream media.

Yvonne de Jonge, right, traveled to South Africa with her friend, Ruth Brydon, after winning a safari in a raffle.
Yvonne de Jonge, right, traveled to South Africa with her friend, Ruth Brydon, after winning a safari in a raffle. Photo of the young family /Distribute

CBC Ottawa news anchor and Carleton University journalism professor Adrian Harewood participated in the program as a boy. It gave him a sense of trust, pride and solidarity, he said.

“You felt like you belonged somewhere, and you felt like you had people who cared about you and loved you,” Harewood said.

“Children were challenged in all sorts of ways – whether it was in the schoolyard with the different kinds of name calls or in popular culture – and you took in all kinds of messages. And this was a kind of oasis: it was a space where one could also celebrate oneself and the community and also build relationships. ”

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Harewood also had her first haircut at de Jonges Nu Skin Hair Fashions. He remembers her as a gracious and caring woman. “She carried herself with a lot of elegance and pride,” he said.

After another career as a technical officer in Statistics Canada, De Jonge retired in 2008 to pamper some of her other passions: tennis, travel and jazz.

Yvonne de Jonge, left, and her longtime friend, Millicent Byrne, during a trip to Paris.
Yvonne de Jonge, left, and her longtime friend, Millicent Byrne, during a trip to Paris. Photo of the young family /Distribute

Ruth Brydon went on safari with the Young in South Africa and saw tennis with her in Australia. Brydon called de Jonge a “very uplifting person.” “She made no air; she was real, ”she said.

A big fan of the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, the Young traveled to all four major tennis championships: in Australia, France, England and New York City. She also regularly signed up for Canada’s Rogers Cup tournament (now the National Bank Open) and at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.

She spent winters in Port St. Lucie, Fla., And played tennis three days a week in Ottawa until July, when her health began to fail. De Jonge died surrounded by friends and family while wearing her “Phenomenal Mother” T-shirt.

She surprised everyone by having her ashes placed in an urn shaped like a book.

“That was her last good joke,” Coddett said.

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