In memory of Ursula Fusk Paré

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Photo: Submitted by Marcia Theriault

I met Ursula Fusk Paré (aka “Irish”), English-language proofreader sublime (as proven in her unparalleled job on the Québec Budget Speech, et al. over the years), in April 1971, my first day of work for the Québec Government.
Ursula saved my job that day. We had been warned rather severely that we had to lock up our highly confidential texts for the Public Protector before leaving, the one thing I forgot to do. PANIC! Once home, several phone calls later, I found out Ursula’s last name, called and asked whether she would have a solution.

“No problem, Marcia. I have the key, so I’ll go back right away and lock up your text.” Ursula walked all the way back to De Salaberry from Bougainville, and did MY duty. Whew!

We never forget the nice things people do for us, do we? I certainly never forgot Ursula’s kindness...the beginning of a 41-year friendship.

Urs, as I called her, was my “roaming companion.” We would go to Montreal for $9.95 return by bus. The Chateau du Mont Ste-Anne welcomed us several times, as did Hovey Manor, as well as an unforgettable bed-and-breakfast in Portneuf. Saint-Jean-Port-Joli was one of our favourite spots, as was Lac St-Joseph, which reminded Ursula Fusk of her family’s dirt-road journey, every summer vacation. We had a particular fondness for the Jacques-Cartier River, as well. For years, we took advantage of every vacation, every break in what would have been an otherwise bleak Saturday!

Urs would tell me the way Quebec was “back then” when she and her friends would ski down Gilmour Hill, or swim at the bottom of it. Presumably, the St. Lawrence was not polluted in those days! She and two other colleagues taught me about the tram from the Junction, Maple Avenue, and, the worst translation bêtise of all, Côte de la Montagne (Bishop Mountain Hill ... thank you very much, Commission de la toponymie!)

Ursula had the very special skill of making people happy. Some of her friends were invited to a memorable post-Carnaval party at her home one year to quench their thirst and sing their hearts out!

And then there was her baking. Knowing that one colleague loved to hike the White Mountain Presidentials, she spent hours one evening making a cake in the shape of a mountain. The next noon, the Translation Service celebrated a colleague’s 40th birthday in the Parliament dining room, our table right next to that of the National Assembly members of the press.

Our colleague was thrilled to open his cake box, but had a bit of trouble holding back a chuckle. It wasn’t long before we were all roaring with laughter. Ursula wasn’t the least bit embarrassed...she was laughing, too.

The cake icing was a beautiful deep brown with a bit of white icing at the “summit of the mountain.” Despite Ursula’s long hours of work, the Presidentials did not jump to mind. Our imaginations, and those of the journalists, ran wild, I have no doubt, judging by the general hilarity.

On Friday morning, August 30, 2012, Ursula left this earth for a much better place. She had been concerned about not being able to vote, but managed to do so at the advance poll to which her dear daughter, Carole, took her, just in time. No, I shall never reveal the party that earned her vote. She was dyed-in-the-wool Irish!

Our conversations and fun times will never leave my mind. Nor will Ursula’s desire to sing. As soon as she entered my car and made sure the doors and windows were closed, she would burst into one of the golden oldies, such as “Take Me out to the Ball Game!”

Thanks, Ursula Fusk Paré, for making me laugh so often, for always being there for me, and all the other people you knew and no doubt helped over the years. Special thanks for considering me a member of your loving family.