After a recent cancer diagnosis, Helen Marie (Callaghan) MacDonald passed away peacefully on December 10, 2021 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Born in Miminegash, PEI on March 7, 1949, Helen was born to Patrick and Isabel (McCarthy) Callaghan.
Helen was the 11th of fourteen children, famous within her family for being a bright and feisty child. Helen was pre-deceased by eight of her siblings: Cecil, Phil, Ralph (Betty, living), Harvey, Rosalie, Roy, Lorne, and Marilyn (Stan, living). Helen is survived by five of her siblings: Max (Sheila), Joyce (Louis, deceased), Pat (Florence), Eloise (Aubrey), and Louis (Judy). Helen adored her siblings and their partners, forever finding ways to get everyone together to bond and laugh.
Helen grew up on a farmhouse on Shore Road in Miminegash, where she spent her first 17 years. Throughout her life, she stayed true to her genuine, salt-of-the-earth roots. Helen graduated from Tignish Regional High School in 1966, where she was class valedictorian and finished top of her class, winning the Governor’s General Medal for highest academic standing. Helen had a life-long love of learning and took great pride in her pursuits. She attended the University of Prince Edward Island, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Bachelor of Education in 1971.
At a barn dance at UPEI, Helen met Wally. She gave him a wink and the rest was history. They married in 1971 and moved to Summerside, PEI. Helen and Wally had two children, Alexis (Hayaan) and Matthew (Michelle). As a mom, Helen was so caring. She loved "her kiddies." She loved to whip them up nacho dip and rhubarb crumble, or fly to Toronto for a family adventure. But her warm hugs (with the accompanying joyful sigh) were the best. As a "G’ma", Helen loved to go to the beach for an ocean swim with her granddaughter Obi ("Oh, the water’s so warm!"). Wally and Helen were married for over 25 years and remained close friends even after their separation. Later in life, Helen felt fortunate to meet a wonderful man, Brian Hannon, and they married in 2019. They shared a love for travel, curling, bridge, golf, and cottage life. They had a wonderful five years together before their life together was sadly cut short.
Helen was a teacher for over 25 years at Elm Street Elementary School in Summerside. As a teacher, Helen was kind, patient, and knowledgeable, committed to helping children most in need. She initially taught grade six, then moved into resource room teaching, and ended with special education consulting at the Western School Board. Helen also served for several years on the executive of the PEI Teacher’s Federation. She was most proud of her work advocating against child poverty. Even in her retirement, Helen continued to tutor children and be a passionate advocate for education. She was very moved by the plight of African grandmothers who lost their children to AIDS. In 2008, she co-founded the G’Ma Circle of PEI, a grandmothers group that raised thousands of dollars for the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Helen proudly represented the Canadian grandmothers at a Grandmothers Gathering in Swaziland in 2010.
Throughout her life, Helen had two major pursuits: curling and bridge. She excelled at them both. Helen won six Senior/Masters Women’s Curling Provincials, four times with PEI and twice with NB. Helen was known for her solid draw-weight and for being a great teammate. In bridge, Helen was formidable and reached the high status of Gold Life Master just this past July. She enjoyed connecting with her friends at the Summerside Bridge Club and the Fiddlehead Bridge Club in Fredericton.
Helen had a deep curiosity about the world. In her youth, she travelled throughout Canada and Europe. She continued to travel in her retirement to Mexico, Arizona, Italy, and the Caribbean. Helen’s worldly nature showed up in her pizzazz for food, fashion, and vocabulary. She would often be heard saying: "Isn’t this decadent?" Helen absolutely loved people, and they loved her in return. Her youthful spirit and quirky ways were hard not to love. "Helen is so lovely," would be the common refrain. She was famous for her hosting abilities at her Island cottage in Fernwood. With Lennie Gallant playing in the background, Helen would bring out some mussels and share a toast as the sun went down. This is how we will remember her. We will forever miss our Hélène, our baby, our sweetie-pie, our tu-tu. We love you, Helen.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Helen’s honour. Two options:
1) Contribute to a bursary for a female student with financial need to attend university (www.stfx.ca/helenmacdonald); 2) Hospice Fredericton (www.hospicefredericton.ca)
Invite - Virtual Memorial Service - Helen MacDonald
You are invited to attend a virtual memorial service for Helen MacDonald on Wednesday afternoon, December 15th at 1 pm Atlantic time in Fredericton, NB. This is an opportunity to hear our favourite memories about Helen.
Given the restrictions of COVID-19, we are hosting a small private gathering which we will live stream.
On the day of the service, you are welcome to join us by clicking on this Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 819 5852 9180
Zoom is very user-friendly. We have included some tips below on how to use Zoom, for anyone who is less familiar with this program.
Of course, no pressure to join. We will attempt to record the service, so if you are unavailable to watch it live, we hope to be able to share it post-event.
We look forward to grieving and celebrating with you.
1. Click on the link (link will only be active during the service, starting December 15)
Meeting ID: 819 5852 9180
2. You may be asked to launch or install the Zoom application if you have not used it before. We recommend installing it in advance on your laptop (or your tablet/phone). If you have any issues in the days leading up to the memorial, please reach out to us.
You can install it by clicking here: https://zoom.us/download
3. Prior to the memorial, we recommend logging in 10-15 minutes early to ensure that it is working properly for you.
4. Once launched, you may be asked to type in the meeting ID and password.
5. You will automatically join the memorial service once it begins.
6. Once you join, you will want to ensure that your microphone is muted and your video is off. Remember that people can see you and your background if you leave your camera on
7. During the memorial service, you are welcome to use the "Chat" box to leave a comment to be shared with the family. Simply press the "Chat" button. Note that everyone will be able to see your message.
8. At the end of the service you can exit by pressing "Leave" or by closing the browser screen.