IN MEMORIAM: the amazing Ouellets, Jo and Gary

IN MEMORIAM: the amazing Ouellets, Jo and Gary

Submitted by David Ouellet

Jo Ouellet (1923-1997) was born to Irish parents Senator Josie (Dinan) Quart and Harry Stephen Quart, after whom St. Stephen’s Elementary School and St. Stephen’s Chapel in Sillery were named. Quart was one of six school commissioners for Sillery who fought to have an English school built for elementary students. 

She was baptized Josephine, but everyone called her Tootsie, and professionally, Jo. Her first major endeavour was writing and publishing The Quebecker, a tourist magazine placed in rooms of the Château Frontenac and other hotels. It later became Voilà Québec

She was a serial volunteer to whom everyone went. Her home was always filled with people seeking her advice. Her many accomplishments include writing a bilingual version of “O Canada.” 

She wrote a book about the Château Frontenac and a history of Jeffery Hale Hospital, all pro bono. She also wrote a book entitled Instant French which was a local bestseller for tourists. She was on many committees, including the local Parent-Teacher Association where she was elected vice-president, a post that was formerly reserved for men. She brought the snow sculpting competition to the Quebec Winter Carnival. Everyone in the community sought her out for advice and thoughts. 

 She was Nancy Reagan’s escort during the Shamrock Summit in 1984. She partnered with Gaston L’Heureux, a provincewide media darling. She translated songs into English for superstars like Gilles Vigneault and Robert Charlebois.

 She was the editor of EnRoute, Air Canada’s inflight magazine. She wrote speeches for politicians like Robert Bourassa and Jean Charest. Her annual Christmas party was legendary, as she would invite people who had no Quebec roots, such as local consuls, teachers and hotel managers. Her greatest legacy was having created WONDERWORD, now syndicated in 200+ newspapers for over 50 years, She also made a word-search puzzle called Chronogram for the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph. She was also an unpaid copywriter for CKMI television. 

She was offered prestigious posts such as professor of translation at Université Laval, assistant deputy minister for tourism and chief speechwriter for the president of Air Canada. She turned them all down, however, because she truly loved her life’s work of helping people and she believed she belonged in Quebec City. She did more pro bono work in a month than most people do in a lifetime. She did all of this behind the scenes, helping, nurturing and developing without expecting anything in return and not looking for fame, power or riches. She was an exemplary human being.

 Her son, Gary Quart Ouellet (1945-2002), was named valedictorian at St. Patrick’s High School before earning a bachelor’s degree from Loyola College (now Concordia University) and a law degree from Université Laval. While growing up, he was fascinated by music, puppetry, magic and educational stimulation. He taught himself how to play the piano, drums and double bass. By the tender age of 10 he was giving live puppet shows and performing magic tricks at birthday and Christmas parties. 

He loved Perry Mason stories and detective novels, giving him an excellent start to a flourishing law practice. During this period he co-owned a modelling school called ELLE. He sat on many boards such as that of the SPCA pro bono and was musical director of a local choir called La Minorité, which went on tour and recorded two albums. 

After a number of years he got the political bug and ended up as a senior advisor to then-prime minister Brian Mulroney and a lobbyist with partner and former Newfoundland premier Frank Moores. 

Then he got the magic bug, heading to Hollywood to produce and direct over 50 hours of primetime magic shows on ABC and NBC. He was a major contributor to David Copperfield’s “flying” illusions. He produced many shows in Las Vegas for which he won several awards. 

He wrote some 30 books on law and on the magic tricks he invented. Gary’s attention was focused on producing, directing and writing the lyrics for a Las Vegas burlesque musical called Tease. Sadly, the show closed after Gary died. Gary was a hobbyist in general, and an excellent portrait artist who had some of his works displayed on Rue du Trésor in Quebec City. He was also an avid gardener, chef and wine expert. He succeeded with everything he did and everyone he touched. He was without doubt a true renaissance man.

  Both Jo and Gary are no longer with us, having passed away in 1997 and 2002 respectively, amazingly on the same date, June 8. Their passing left a gaping hole in many lives. 

Jo was also the mother of Mark Ouellet (whereabouts unknown), the legendary QCT photographer and chiropractor Dr. Jay Q. Ouellet (1954-2020) and David Ouellet.




IN MEMORIAM: the amazing Ouellets, Jo and Gary was last modified: June 7th, 2022 by QCT Editor

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