She cherished people young, not so young
Steve Newman, Renfrew Mercury
Committed to family, community and church.
Catherine Gallagher displays the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal she received at a special Admaston-Bromley ceremony in September.
November 21, 2012
In life and death, the accolades come.
Just over two months ago, Catherine Gallagher of Douglas was the centre of attention as the 96-year-old was showered with compliments for her community contributions.
The occasion was her receipt of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal at a Sept. 1 ceremony in Admaston-Bromley’s municipal headquarters.
Last Friday, she died at Renfrew Victoria Hospital with several family members by her bedside. She would have turned 97 on Dec. 20.
This week was a time of sorrow, but also of celebration, said her children. Her wake took place Sunday and Monday at Goulet’s Funeral Home in Renfrew. The funeral was at her home parish of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Douglas, where she was a revered community member.
Born in Chichester, Que., across the Ottawa River from Pembroke, Catherine was a virtual stranger when she arrived in Douglas in 1945 to join her husband, Thomas Edmund Gallagher, whom most people referred to as Ed.
She thrived in her new home. Not only did she win a battle with cancer, but she got involved in the community with organizations that included the Catholic Women’s League, 4-H Club, Douglas and District Senior Citizens Club, and Renfrew and Area Diabetes Association.
She helped form the senior citizens club and, at age 85, became a Tai-Chi instructor who attracted other seniors to the Tuesday sessions in Eganville. Remarkably, she continued that activity until early this year.
Son Danny, who lives in Toronto, says his mother “was somebody who really cared for the other people in her community.”
Strong evidence was the list that she kept of expectant mothers, who were included in her daily prayers during their pregnancies. Once the baby arrived, the new mother would also receive a letter from Catherine, and not just a line or two.
She was also known for sending hand-written letters on people’s birthdays and for tackling hundreds, if not thousands, of the daily newspapers’ crossword puzzles over the years.
Ellen Milosek says her mother had a special definition of love, which Ellen describes as “having respect, care, concern, thoughtfulness and sensitivity for each other, first and foremost, and then for the world.”
Catherine’s daughter admitted that a big hole will be left with her death, “but beyond that there is solace in the good she did for everyone.”
She set an example for other couples, too, says the youngest of seven children.
Ed, who died in 2004, and Catherine “dignified each other,” explains Ellen. “There was never a harsh word spoken in the house. There was so much respect.”
The oldest child is Lawrence, a resident of Renfrew, who says a “light has gone out” with his mother’s death.
“There are other great people in the world too, but Mother was the very essence of hard work, grit and determination, and kindness to everyone,” he explains. “She was phenomenal for how she encouraged people in their lives, whether in times of sadness or times of achievement.”
Lawrence says his mother cherished family, and little children especially cherished her.
“Mother had a remarkably good life. She had a big family and was able to play the hand of cards she was dealt, with no whining.”
Lawrence says all seven children benefitted from their parents’ behaviour, which helped them develop a sense of decency.
Receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in September was “a testament to her enormous community service,” said Lawrence.
At the special ceremony Sept. 1, MPP John Yakabuski referred to her as a selfless, witty, determined, kind, gregarious and inspirational person.
“You’re a perfect fit for that medal,” said Mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe, noting that Gallagher lived her life based on the main principles by which the queen lives — duty, family and community.
Moving forward without his mom, Lawrence says: “She’ll be remembered as an enormously good and decent lady, with enormous kindness and goodwill toward everyone.”
Catherine Gallagher’s other children are Jim (Ottawa), Bernard (Surrey, B.C.), Pat (Douglas) and Margo (Kingston). She is also survived by three great-grandchildren and 13 grandchildren.
— With files from Sherry Haaima
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