Lillian Jean MacFadgen (née MacKinlay) died February 26, 2016, in Nanaimo, B.C., at the age of 90. She passed from this life surrounded by the love of her children and grandchildren in her home looking out over the harbour, a fitting leave-taking for a generous and good person who spread love everywhere, lived justly and kindly, put others’ needs before her own, and saw only the best in everyone. Left behind to mourn her loss – and celebrate her amazing life – are her children, Heather (Rod), Jane (Dale), Lynne (Ross), Laura (Michael), and Don (Catherine). Jean was predeceased in 1973 by her husband, Donald MacFadgen. She is survived by her sister, Anne Shirley (Lawrence), and predeceased by brothers Bud (Catherine) and Jerry (Joan). All her grandchildren adored their “Ahma” – she had a special relationship with each of them, always curious about their latest interests, always sustaining their endeavours with encouragement, thoughtful gifts, and “POCs” (pieces of chocolate). She will forever be held in the hearts of Ben (Leia), Emily, Megan, Noah, Sarah, Neal, Patrick, Kelsey, Amelia, Colleen, and Callum. And Ahma held a very special and poignant place in her heart for her granddaughter, Heather Beverley, who died in 1994 at 21 months.
Jean was born on May 7, 1925, in Detroit, MI, with the family returning to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia five years later. She grew up in a large family home with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all living together. She was an intellectually curious child with a deep love of music, nature, and the arts. She graduated from Dalhousie University in 1945 with a B.Sc., and then worked as a lab technician in Toronto, Boston, and Ottawa. She also made several lifelong friends during these years.
Jean returned to Cape Breton and, in 1952, married Don, her childhood companion from summers on the Mira River. In 1973, when the Number 12 mine in New Waterford, NS caught fire, Don died suddenly at the mine face, after making the difficult decision to seal off the mine. A couple of years later Jean moved the family to Godalming, UK for a year, fulfilling an aspiration that she and Don had shared. Jean then enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at Wilfred Laurier University, focussing on community development. Upon graduating in 1980, she worked as the Executive Director of the YWCA in Kitchener, ON. When her first grandchild was born in 1984, she relocated to Vancouver to be near him and her family. She was employed there as Executive Director of the West End Seniors’ Network. After retiring at the age of 66, she went to China for six months to teach ESL.
Jean had an enduring sense of community and social justice. She worked one summer with the first professional social worker in Nova Scotia, Jane Wisdom, and wrote her Master’s thesis on Ms. Wisdom. She was one of the founders of the Glace Bay Citizens Service League, an ecumenical, non-profit organization offering many needed community programs, and which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. She also served on the steering committee of the Nova Scotia Status of Women, and on the boards of the College of Cape Breton and the Miners’ Museum in Glace Bay.
Family mattered more to her than anything else in this world, and she died the way she lived, with children and grandchildren singing her favourite Celtic songs by her bedside.
There will be a candlelight funeral service for Jean on Saturday, March 5th, 2016 (7:00pm) at St. Andrew’s United Church, Nanaimo, BC. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made, in Jean’s name, to Cape Breton University (Sydney, NS) or Vancouver Island University (Nanaimo, BC) for student bursaries.