Veteran Travel Industry Leader Heather Qually Dies

Open Jaw

Heather Qually in 2011 at retirement party at Vanessa Lee’s prior to moving out west.

Poignant message on Heather’s 2011 retirement cake

Described as “a truly impressive woman,” long-time Canadian travel industry executive Heather Qually was taken by breast cancer last Thursday in YVR.

Cruise Strategies Ltd. President and CEO Vanessa Lee was a close friend and colleague over the years, and she wanted to share her thoughts on the sad occasion with Open Jaw readers. Qually retired from the industry just a few short years ago.

“Heather and I first met in 1982 when she worked for Eaton’s Travel and then our careers ran parallel with her at Carousel and Regent and me at Paramount and Encore Cruises,” said Lee.

“One of my greatest feats was to convince her (very slyly I must admit) to come and work with me at Encore on a short-term project basis, which ended up being a lengthy collaboration of many gratifying years and one of our mutually finest career moments in marketing and brochure production. It was a joy.”

Lee continues: “HQ as we called her, was a real character and one of a kind. She was a truly impressive woman. She was literally ‘one-of-a-kind,’ deeply private, strong, proud, very smart, had the BEST stories, and she could write extremely well.

“Heather was never an easy woman, and you had to take her as she came, but in her later years she did mellow (somewhat) and she was always a loving, loyal, generous and trusting friend as well as a marvellous sibling to her beloved “Sister Sandy” who returned the favour in spades.

“And now we are all the poorer for her loss,” Lee concluded. “Brava, Heather, Brava – a life well-lived.” 

Paul Larcher - August 21, 2015 @ 10:08
I first met Heather 'Bloody' Qually (as she'd often introduce herself) when Paramount Holidays joined Sunquest Vacations. I enjoyed and admired her spirit, her sense of humour and her keen industry smarts. However, after a while, she was convinced by a competitor that 'they' needed her much more than 'we' did so she left the company for new challenges. I always wanted the chance to work with her again and luckily I did, during the last 6 years of her working career in the Marketing Dept of MyTravel/Thomas Cook. She was a great sounding board for ideas and I enjoyed her unique style of writing.
One day HQ took me to The Keg for lunch and announced that was she retiring and no, she wouldn't be doing any freelance work no mater how much I begged. I was crushed but, was happy for her.
Sadly it was around that same time Heather first became ill. She moved to Vancouver and beat the cancer and enjoyed several very happy years with 'Sister Sandy' on their balcony sipping wine and numerous great vacations with friends to Florida, Palm Springs, Europe, etc.
HQ's friends were deeply saddened when several months ago, Heather fell ill again.
She was definitely one of a kind, could light up a room with her boisterous laughter and always had an ear for you.
Missing you HQ.
PS - As Vanessa mentioned, HQ was private in many ways so I'm sure Heather would throttle me for writing all this!

Kerry McPhedran - August 19, 2015 @ 22:08
I'm Heather's cousin (our mom's were sisters) who grew up with Hedy (as my dad called her) and Sandy. Thanks so much for running this. I've hear names of Heather's eastern friends over the years. With no family in Toronto, Heather considered you her other family. Vanessa--you really captured Heather. Having her these past few years in Vancouver was a treat. I realized I didn't really know Heather as an adult beyond her Christmas visits. When I mentioned a play at the oddball PuSH festival which was mostly in Inuktituk with English sous titles, to my surprise and delight, she wanted to go.

Coleen Czechowski - August 17, 2015 @ 17:08
I was always in awe (actually afraid) of Heather. She was what I wanted to grow up to be, but never even came close. She was patient with my ignorance, and I always tried to make her laugh, so maybe, just maybe, she'd like me a little better and cut me some slack.

Martha - August 17, 2015 @ 12:08
Funny and fearless. I loved it when she taught me the expression "Adult beverage".

Jane D. - August 17, 2015 @ 12:08
So true. Heather was a one-of-a-kind.

Don Robertson - August 17, 2015 @ 12:08
I remember working with Heather on ad campaigns with Carousel Tours and Sears Travel. She was always sharp, knowledgeable and dedicated, a true professional. My condolences to her family

Nina Slawek - August 17, 2015 @ 10:08
I remember that "Matrix" pose of Heather's in the Travel Calendar breast cancer fundraising initiative -- it really showed her personality. Brava, Heather.

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