Inspirational. There were many words bandied about as Admaston-Bromley resident Catherine Gallagher received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal Sept. 1 at a special ceremony and tea party, but inspirational was one word that came up time and time again.
“In every community, in everyone’s life, everybody’s family, there are seminal moments, just moments you mark and you’re never going to forget,” said Mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe. “Well this is one for our community.” Family, friends, council, staff and community members turned out in large numbers to pay tribute to the 96-year-old Gallagher, who was driven to the event in a Model A Ford, led by Pipe Major Jim Savage of the Renfrew Highland Pipes and Drums.
Gallagher has worn many hats, said Briscoe, including farmwife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and has been an active member of St. Michael’s Catholic Church and the Catholic Women’s League. She was also a founding member of the Douglas seniors group and co-founded the Eganville Seniors Group and was active in the diabetes association and cancer research groups, and with the St. Joseph’s Parents Foundation. Rev. Brady Macnamara was among those on hand to honour Gallagher.
“She has been and continues to be a stalwart community member,” he said.
“She has contributed in many, many ways to the community, to her town of Douglas, to her church.”
He thanked her for sharing her gifts and talent.
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski led those gathered in the singing of God Save the Queen and paid tribute to Gallagher, who he described as a true role model for the community.
“There are so many words that can be used to describe Catherine,” said Yakabuski.
Selfless, witty, determined, kind, gregarious and at the same time humble are all fitting descriptors, he said, but the word he chose to focus on was ‘inspirational’.
He continues to be impressed with Gallagher, known for her sharp wit and active lifestyle, even having taught Tai Chi into her nineties.
“When we can look at a person in our community and see them as a role model – that is something that is truly a gift that Catherine gives all of us in this community,” said Yakabuski. “It’s a fitting and appropriate event today to be bestowing Catherine with this particular honour that is reserved for those who are completely worthy of it.”
Gallagher’s daughter, Ellen Milosek, spoke on behalf of the Gallagher family, and thanked everyone for coming to honour her mother.
“She’s been an absolute wonder in my eyes over the years,” said Milosek. “She’s a person who has taught me a lot about being a good kind person and to be on the lookout for those who need a hand.”
Gallagher raised seven children, born over 10 years, said Milosek.
“She just has always been a source of inspiration to all of us,” she said. “When she thought something was right, she fought for it
Mayor Briscoe says that when one takes a measure between Gallagher’s age and Queen Elizabeth, the former would have been about 10 years of age when the queen was born.
“They have shared together all of the events for nearly nine decades,” said Briscoe. “Together these two ladies have watched our world evolve.”
The women have lived through hard times, including two world wars, the great depression and recessions, and good times, including remarkable achievements in transportation, communication, medicine, education and women’s rights.
There was one diamond jubilee medal provided per community, explained Briscoe.
“I can tell you honestly that our council and staff, without hardly hesitation, unanimously recommended yourself as our recipient,” Briscoe told Gallagher. “You’re a perfect fit for that medal.”
The mayor said that Gallagher has lived her life based on the three main principles on which the queen lives – duty, family and community.
She presented and pinned Gallagher with the medal and provided a framed certificate, signed by Governor General David Johnston.
Gallagher thanked all those in attendance and her family and friends and the community for the honour.
“I’m grateful to my family, they’ve been all very good to me,”she said.
Gallagher recalled that her first car ride ever was in a Model T Ford when she had to be taken to hospital when her hand was injured as a child, so being chauffered to the event in a Model A was a special treat.
She had words of wisdom for those gathered.
“There’s a lot of things happen to you over the years and they seem not very big things but they’re wonderful things to remember,” she said.
“Your book of memories is one of the most precious things you will have.”
You’d be surprised, upon reflection, what was important, she said.
“Sometimes you think ‘Oh you had a lot of ups and downs,’ but it’s not the downs you remember most, it’s the ups and all the simple things that made you so happy and so proud.”
A simple reflection each morning helps her face each day, said Gallagher.
“I say to the Lord every morning: ‘Lord, help me to remember that nothing is going to happen to me today that you and I can’t handle’ and I think that’s good advice to give to you, too.”