Cover photo for Josephine Victoria (Heughan)  Lonsdale's Obituary
Josephine Victoria (Heughan)  Lonsdale Profile Photo

Josephine Victoria (Heughan) Lonsdale

November 22, 1922 — July 23, 2023

Toronto

Josephine Victoria Lonsdale (Heughan’s) life reads like a book! Scratch that – is a book! Although clichéd, it's true! Motherless at five, she survived the Great Depression, ran with the "mob," became a circus performer (high-diver and psychic), served her country in WWII (dodging bullets and bombs as an ambulance-driving nurse). After the war she did the Canadian radio and television talk-show circuit as a mystic (CBC's Face to Face, The Discovery Channel, etc.) and appeared in several infomercials along with her son, renowned psychic Sir Anthony Lonsdale-Carr. Josephine is also first cousin to 1960s notorious Canadian spy, Gordon Arnold Lonsdale.

No fond childhood memories for this little “damsel in distress.” Born into a dirt poor family in Cobalt, Ontario, Canada, her father, a decorated WWI veteran (sniper and machine gunner at Vimy Ridge and who also helped build the Empire State Building, since Mohawks are not afraid of heights), worked like a dog in the silver mines to provide a meager living for his family. Josephine ("Josie" or “Vicki”) was the third of five children, but the eldest, Daniel, died before reaching his first birthday. Her father left the damp, backbreaking work of mining to go work in the easier environment of the logging camps in and around Buckingham, Quebec, his birth place, and an area known as "The Cradle Of Strong Men," famous for exporting prodigiously strong men – including the Mighty Louis Cyr, who was billed as "The World’s Strongest Man!" with Barnum & Bailey Circus. As a young boy, Josie's father knew Cyr quite well.

Then – tragedy struck! Just before her fifth birthday Josephine's mother died of exhaustion from drudge labor, working for wealthy families. The father had to prepare the body himself, build the casket himself, and then cart it out to the small St. Andrew’s Cemetery where he dug the grave and buried her, himself….

Alone with four motherless children and no one to look after them while he went to work in the bush, he once again packed up the family and this time headed south to Toronto. Here, he got a job with Bell telephone (being a natural electrician and fiddle player), eventually remarried (to "the woman who missed the Titanic by two hours") and fathered three more children, now totaling seven!

Josie did not get along with her stepmother and when she turned fourteen, typically ran off and – you guessed it – joined the circus! ("Conklin Shows") This being the middle of the "Dirty 30s Depression," money and space – nine people: two adults, seven kids – were plenty scarce.

Practically orphaned and facing the hard cruel world completely on her own in the face of the worst economic disaster in modern history, and penniless! Somehow, through sheer luck and Destiny, she managed to get herself on the "Girlie Show" with Patty Conklin – an American – and it was here she met the popular swimmer and high-diver (110 ft. into 8 ft. of flaming water!) and ladies man, Captain Tony Carr (as he was billed). He taught her and her two sisters, “Dixie” and “Dot” to swim, dive and use the trampoline. He also became Anthony Carr's father. When Vicki wasn't doing that she also learned the “tea cup” and "mitt-reading" business, because on the circus circuit everybody had to multitask if they wanted to keep their jobs, times being what they were. Surprisingly, she became quite adept at reading hands, cups and cards – preferring it to her chosen profession in the "Water Follies!" Josephine, it turns out, was a natural "sensitive" (psychic), as the ability was then referred to.

After all, her father – half Mohawk himself – taught her these mystic things by telling her tales of the spirit world! Much of it had been repressed but now, as she sat opposite the people for whom she was to "read," it all came flooding back like a lost memory – pictures, images, "voices " – the way her father taught her when she was just a little girl in Quebec, which was to "self-trance" by staring into a fire. In the circus, she used a single candle while shuffling cards and looking into the cup.

One of her best friends in the water ballet segment of the swim show was a beautiful young woman, an Olympic High Platform Diving champion, whom Josie hung around with. She, too, was an American. The outbreak of the war severely restricted goods and groups of people (circuses, dance bands, etc.) from criss-crossing the border, so this powerful young swimmer and diver made her way north to join the water show operated and owned by Alfie Phillips, himself a one-time, one-eyed champion Olympic diver.

On a warm summer evening, while working the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), which got rained out that day, they were sitting around their (cheap) hotel room – two people always had to share a room. Josephine poured her some tea from a hotplate kettle (hotplates, by the way, were not allowed in rooms) and after swishing around the dregs at the bottom of the cup, told this young women: "I can see here that you are going back to the States – New York, I think – where a very important man will take an interest in you, both personally and professionally. This will mark the first step for you – the first rung, as it were, up the ladder leading to great success!... Someday you will be a very big star – bigger even, than you can imagine!"

A few weeks later, Alfie (who was secretly in love with her) took this lovely lady to New York to audition for The Billy Rose Aquacade, a world famous spectacular swim show. Alfie introduced her to Billy Rose, quickly lost her to him as he whisked her off to Hollywood for a screen test, which she "passed" with flying colors!

A few years later she became the darling of MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios) and one of the brightest stars to ever come out of Tinseltown in the 1950s. The world would know her as ESTHER WILLIAMS, the beautiful, bright, glamorous, glittering superstar of all those sensational swim movies.

Till her dying day, Josephine kept an ancient black-and-white photo of the then nineteen-year old ingénue, sitting on the end of a diving board, on top of our piano as proof of one of her more spectacular predictions.

When war broke out in 1939, first her brother, Hubert (Herb), joined up, followed by her father – as if one World War hadn't already been enough for him! Not to be outdone by the men of her family, Josie left Conklin and joined the CWACS (Canadian Women's Army Corps). She trained as a nurse and ambulance driver – snaking her way through the worst of the carnage wrought by the London Blitz during and after the Battle of Britain. Dead and wounded civilians literally piled up in the back of her vehicle as she sped – herself also wounded – to the nearest medical centers! Its horrors would haunt both her and her brother for years after the war ended.

In 1943, she received an honorable discharge due to being with child. Somehow Tony Carr, now in the navy, managed to put into a London port "just long enough”.

Once back across on this side of the great pond she gave birth to a son, Anthony, who came into this world on December 6, 1943, at 2:20pm. Shortly after, baby in tow, Josie returned to Conklin Shows where she eventually trained her son in all things occult, the psychic sciences, whenever she wore her other "hat" as a mitt-reader and not a diver.

She finally left the show to settle down in Toronto for a less nomadic, more stable life. She gave birth to another child, a girl, Tina, who, along with her older brother, would play – not "tag" or "hopscotch" or "hide-and-go-seek" – but psychic games... holding up playing cards and concentrating to see if the other could "see" what it was; and then, switching back and forth until – like building a muscle with exercise – they could literally communicate telepathically without ever speaking a word to each other!

Over the years, Josephine worked as a nurse at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital for veterans, and became the matriarch of a truly psychic family, whose collective fulfilled prophecies over the years number in the thousands. Their remarkable achievement has been placed before the Guiness people – the record book, not the beer! – for consideration. Some of Josie's accurately recorded prophecies include the dizzying heights of Esther Williams' success, the fiery deaths of hundreds of sleeping passengers aboard the ill-fated Noronic (1949) while it was moored overnight at Toronto harbor, and the disgrace of one-time Olympic gold medal winner, sprinter BEN JOHNSON, stripped of his prize for steroid use in Seoul, Korea, in 1988. Josephine Lonsdale's life doesn't read like a book. It is a book!

Josephine spent the last few years of her life fighting against her diminishing health, with Anthony by her side. Anthony, now 80 years old, has spent the last 20 years of his life taking care of his mother, at the expense of his own career. He exchanged his tarot cards, crystal ball and saxophone to change his mother’s diapers, feed and bathe her, and take her to the hospital countless times. He has spent many days and nights by her sick bed, at home and at the hospital, and many times had to cancel business and personal plans to be with her. The last decade has taken a toll on both their health and finances. Anthony is inconsolable since his mother’s death, whom he considered his soulmate.

Anthony recalls his mother’s wishes: a simple funeral and Amazing Grace played by a lone piper. He is overwhelmed and anguished with grief, as he cannot afford to respect her wishes without your help.

Josephine “Josie” Lonsdale was an amazing woman, wife and mother, who lived a full and fascinating life and has influenced many generations of women, while raising her children in the wake of WWII and through a world full of today’s turmoil. Josephine Lonsdale was a woman of courage and a pioneer for all women in the 20th century, and set a standard for many young women to follow. She was also one-time president of Parent Finders. She is survived by her son, Anthony, daughters, Jane and Tina; granddaughter, Lisa, great-granddaughter Gracieanna, sisters, Helen Jene Lonsdale and Daisy “Dixie” Vivian Lonsdale; nieces, Sandy and Cindy; nephew, Raymond Lonsdale-Parish; and son-in-law, Paul Higgins; – “and all the other important sundry and diverse children and grandchildren whom my poor anguished heart and worn-out gray matter simply cannot recall at this terrible time in my life. But I love you all….”

Join us in honoring her memory by helping fund her final resting place. Any donations are very welcome. God bless you all!

www.gofundme.com/josephine-lonsdale

To send flowers to the family in memory of Josephine Victoria (Heughan) Lonsdale, please visit our flower store.

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