It is with deep sadness and no small trepidation that the family of Mary-Louise Sirois announces her passing, less than a week before her 77th birthday: sadness because all of us and so many others will miss her incisive wit, her remarkable powers of observation, and her indomitable sense of how uniquely human social graces – obituaries, for instance – ought to be carried out; trepidation because we know she’s watching.
Mary-Louise was an accomplished and outspoken authority on manners and etiquette, one who never tired of showing her family how to do or say the right thing, how to compose a proper letter for any and all occasions, how to eat with the correct utensil, or how to find humour in any situation. We are certain that none of her children ever measured up to her exacting standards in this regard, but all of them are better human beings for having made the attempt.
Our sister/wife/mother/grandmother/great grandmother was born in Moncton on December 20, 1943, to the late Hugh and the late Florence (Walton) Reardon. She married in August 1963 at age 19 and gave birth to her first child in May 1964. The Sixties did not reach New Brunswick until the Seventies, so although she studied to be a teacher, Mary-Louise set aside any aspirations of her own career and became a full-time homemaker. She would raise four very active children in different parts of the province with her husband, the Honourable Jacques A. Sirois, a now-retired former Justice of the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench. His studies and work as a lawyer and later judge took them to Fredericton, Edmundston, Fredericton again, Moncton, Bathurst, Moncton again, Edmundston again, and then a final judicial posting back in Moncton.
By far the longest (more than 20 years) and most difficult stretch was the second one in Edmundston. Mary-Louise did not like the idea of leaving her social milieu in Moncton again. She still had three children at home who needed to enrol in new schools, she arrived with an ankle injury that never fully healed, and the area’s unilingual Francophone environment made her feel isolated.
Nonetheless, she eventually found and befriended an eclectic mix of likeminded people from different backgrounds, from all walks of life, and from places as far-flung as Britain, South Africa, Hong Kong – even Campbellton. They would come to call themselves the "United Nations", and meetings of some sort were almost always in session, from quick coffees and lazy brunches to merciless curry cook-offs and multi-family barbecues. A natural host and highly talented cook, Mary-Louise thrived in these kinds of settings, and by the time she and Jacques finally returned to Moncton during the winter of 2005-2006, they had formed numerous lasting friendships that sustained her for years and endure to this day.
Mary-Louise was a voracious reader whose appetite for fiction – good and bad alike – made librarians feel wanted and necessary wherever she lived. She genuinely valued their opinions, remembered their names and birthdays, noted how many children they had, and added some of them to the long list of people she called "friends". Her memory was boundless, her goodwill unlimited, so she did the same for almost everyone with whom she interacted: from waiters and salespeople to electricians and postal workers, as well as the beggars who so often approached her outside the post office in Moncton. If you wanted to talk, Mary-Louise would listen – and retain. All of it. Forever. But still keep it secret if that’s what you wanted.
These traits made her a valuable source of advice and support for friends, relatives, acquaintances, and the unending stream of strangers – census-takers, grocery clerks, the old lady sitting next to her on a plane, etc – who instinctively trusted both her judgment and her discretion. More friends, even if not all of them made it onto the official birthday card roster.
If you really knew Mary-Louise, you also know that she loved to drive, especially over long distances and mainly because so few others knew how to do it properly. In fairness, she was an excellent driver who took very few chances and operated within her limitations, which obviously were a bit beyond those of the lesser mortals for whom posted speed limits were intended. Fortunately for her, even cops were not immune to her warmth and charm, which almost always secured a warning instead of a fine, or a small fine instead of a big one.
This could go on and on, but Mary-Louise – who KNEW about such things – had certain strict rules about obituaries, one of which was "no more than 750 words of text" (not including survivors, funeral or memorial information, and instructions for flowers or donations) "unless you’re famous. Maybe 800 if you were really special." If you’re counting, this brings us to just over 800, all of them richly deserved.
In addition to her beloved sister Patricia (now resident in Toronto, Ontario), Mary-Louise is survived by her devoted husband Jacques, who stood by her through all the ups and downs that life can throw at a couple over the course of more than 50 years, and their four children: son George (Tracey) of Calgary, Alberta; daughter Elizabeth (John) of Houston, Texas; son Marc (Marilyn) of Calamba City, Philippines; and son Martin (Lise) of Moncton. She also leaves behind 11 grandchildren (Jacques, Brendan, Monika, Brett, Jessica, Cassandra, Yasmine, Mona, Jean-Jacques, Erin, and Evelyn) and one great-grandson (Wyatt). She will be mourned, too, by a long list of cousins, nieces, nephews, and all those friends.
The family plans to hold a celebration of Mary-Louise’s life, details of which will be announced when they have been finalized.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and/or the Humanity Project homeless shelter in Moncton.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Tuttle Brothers Riverview
Funeral Home 214 Pine Glen Rd. Riverview, NB (506)857-9544
Online condolences can be made at www.tuttlefuneralhome.ca