September 23rd, 2021

Normally I begin my September reports recounting what I did on my summer vacation and often there is an element related to the history of our community. I can honestly say, other than documenting some UIS archival material and interacting with noted author Alan Hustak, I have done little in that regard. What I did manage to do is safely meet with friends on occasion, visit the pool in the complex almost daily, and walk around the neighbourhood.

We have lost a number of people over the summer. We said goodbye to Catherine Polson, Frances Gillan, Raymond Savard, and our beloved Jane Skelton.

We first got to know Catherine in 2015 when she competed in the United Irish Societies’ annual Selection Evening. At the time I noticed what a good public speaker she was and that she had a pretty good shot at winning the competition. While she lost out to Carly Meredith, Cat got busy as a parade princess and so we saw her at every event, from the more intimate ones to the bigger ones. Quite often princesses and queens fade into the sunset, rarely to be seen again. Cat was an exception, and exceptional. She kept active within the UIS, attended events, volunteered her time for such important work as the Christmas Basket program, and joined our Polar Bear Plunge team benefitting Special Olympics Quebec. I was proud to have her as one of the directors at the St. Patrick’s Society,

Frances Gillan was a quiet and unassuming member of the UIS Entertainment Committee in its heyday. She always without fail gave her 100% in performing for the shut-ins and those who most benefitted from the committee’s volunteerism. In her latter years she retreated gracefully as she battled Alzheimer’s Disease. Though the organization never forgot Frances, the organization is forever grateful for the contributions she made to  the United Irish Societies of Montreal and its mission. Sadly, she lost her battle prior to August 15th.

The United Irish Societies of Montreal selected City of Verdun Mayor Raymond Savard as Chief Reviewing Officer of the 1989 St. Patrick’s Parade. While quite often former dignitaries fade away after they are honoured, Mr. Savard continued to be a regular at our activities. He proudly wore his sash when attending the Parade or the Mass of Anticipation. During his son André’s time as Verdun Borough Councillor, Mr. Savard was known to attend the annual Verdun Mayor’s reception as his guest. During his time in office he saw the wisdom in protecting Verdun’s valuable shoreline from real estate developers. All Verdunites and visitors now have a wonderful waterfront to enjoy and it’s thanks to Mr. Savard’s vision.  Sadly on July 20th Mr. Savard left this world after a career in business and of public service.

As we all know, a little over a week ago Jane Skelton passed away. She was one of the more senior UIS members in terms of longevity, having joined somewhere around 1990 or 1991 and she was most definitely the most senior Executive Committee member, excluding the past presidents,  being named chairperson of the Float Committee in the Spring of 1994 for the 1995 season in the days when UIS members decorated a float pursuant to that year’s parade theme.

She moved over to chair the Membership Committee for the 1996 and 1997 seasons before joining the Elected Executive as Corresponding Secretary (1998 – 2005) and Treasurer (2006 – 2010, 2013 – 2021).

When necessary Jane also stepped in to lead other committees – Christmas Baskets (2012 – 2016) and Entertainment Committee (2000 – 2001, 2005)

She was an entertainer at heart and enjoyed bringing some sunshine into the lives of shutins and those needing a little pick me up through her association with the UIS Entertainment group.

For her years of dedication to the organization, in the Spring of 2019 outgoing president Paul Loftus presented Jane with Gold Card (Life) Membership in the UIS.

I look back now with regret that the organization did not consider her for the Simon McDonaugh Humanitarian Award because, looking back on her time on the Executive, she went about her volunteerism in a quiet and unassuming way much like I am sure Simon McDonaugh did.

I will miss her critters, her bananas, and her presence at meetings and events.

Ken Quinn
Historian – The United Irish Societies of Montreal