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Claire's love of bonsais

A monument of our community has left us. Peacefully, surrounded by her family, Claire Kerrigan, one of the founders of Tempo passed away on Monday, July 31st at the age of 98.

Claire Kerrigan was one of a kind: a trailblazer, a visionary, a member of the founding families of Knowlton. Trained as a social worker, Claire had a keen sense of community and awareness of the needs of those who were of humble means or going through difficult times.

Concerned about the need to foster and inform her community about what was going on locally, Claire and a devoted group of citizens decided to put together a free information tool that would be managed by volunteers of the community for the community. This is how Tempo was born in 1983.

Forty years later, Tempo remains unique in Canada: bilingual, free, almost entirely run and produced by volunteers. This is part of her extraordinary vision.

Micheline Croteau, part of the first team of Tempo volunteers, has fond memories. “Claire taught me how to report and write articles. She came to Tempo with a rich experience in newspapers. Her family was involved in the management of Southam newspapers. I will remember how she always asked me how to say things in French, get the right word, the proper expression. That was important to her.”

Claire was also a co-founder, in 1980, of The Carke Foundation, a body that was behind – amongst other projects – the creation and the funding of the community center, Centre Lac-Brome. She personally chose that name. It was the jewel in the crown of Claire Kerrigan.

Donald Gray-Donald, a long-time member of the Carke Board, remembers Claire as a “persistent and determined person, yet she was nice. She did not like to be the center of attention. I once asked her why – being from a well-to-do family – she cared so much for the less privileged? She replied ‘this is what I need to do’. The community will miss her greatly.”

Johanne Morin worked with Claire, the volunteer, for over 30 years as director of the TBL community centre and as a member of the Board of the Carke Foundation. Claire Kerrigan’s inspiring and generous contribution to her community had a strong influence on Johanne: “Claire was a powerful role model for me. She had a sharp mind and a kind soul. I still had so much to share and to learn from her. I miss her already.”

Former councillor and Carke colleague, Cynthia Wilkinson, knew Claire almost from childhood. She won’t forget the day, when, already in her eighties, Claire got an Apple watch and “marvelled like a child in a candy store that she could talk to her friends and read her friends’ messages on her watch just like Dick Tracy!”

When the community work was done, Claire found joy and serenity in her large garden bordering Brome Lake.

Co-founder in the 70s and president of the Montreal Bonsai Society, a group affiliated with the Botanical Gardens, she had an impressive collection of bonsais that she grew over many decades; it made her especially proud and she displayed it a few times on the House and Garden Tour. Cultivating beauty with precision, patience and determination, was also part of her mission in life. Her daughter Carolyn perhaps best sums up Claire’s personal legacy “we were so lucky to have her as a mother”.

Claire chose the moment to end her life and the suffering her cancer was causing her and her family. A statement to the strength of character that defined Claire throughout her life.

Predeceased by her husband Peter Kerrigan and daughters Cynthia and Pamela, she will be missed by her two sisters Sydney Duder and Martha Hallward, her four children Philip, Carolyn, Lucy and Christopher, 12 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren, her many friends and the community, especially her Tempo family that she loved and to whom she gave so much.

Farewell and thank you Claire.

A private family memorial will take place at a later date.

For those who wish, donations to the Carke Foundation, 270 Victoria, Knowlton, QC, J0E 1V0 would be appreciated.

Francine Bastien, LJI

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