'A woman of compassion': Mourners celebrate life of N.B. lieutenant-governor
Under a grey sky and surrounded by Acadian flags, hundreds of people gathered at a church in New Brunswick Thursday to celebrate the life of Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy Vienneau, who died last Friday after a battle with cancer.
Roughly 400 people -- including Premier Blaine Higgs and Gov. Gen. Julie Payette -- filled the Catholic church in Robertville, N.B., where a state funeral was held. Another 150 mourners packed into a nearby school to view a live broadcast of the service.
The 63-year-old Robertville native became the province's 31st lieutenant-governor on Oct. 23, 2014, after a long career focused on economic development and education.
“We are here today to celebrate the accomplishments of a great lady of New Brunswick, who made a huge difference, working tirelessly always to further the economic development of her province, to promote and advance education in all forms, and the importance of citizen involvement in all spheres of society,” said Payette, who spoke at the state funeral.
Roy Vienneau was the first Acadian woman to hold the office, and many people are remembering her for her strong Acadian roots, as well as her grace and dedication to the province.
"Jocelyn was everything for a lot of people here,” said family friend, Winnie Losier. “It is a privilege to be here today to remember her as a good person.”
“I think she was a woman of causes and a woman of compassion,” said Herménégilde Chiasson, a former lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick. “Whenever I saw her with people, I think she had a way with people.”
Premier Blaine Higgs also addressed the crowd, noting Roy Vienneau’s accomplishments, but also remarking on her kindness and compassion, which defined her, he said.
“I had the opportunity to speak to her about a week ago. She was again very focused about the future of New Brunswick and the tremendous potential we have,” recalled Higgs. “Although it was in her voice, it was clear that she was resigned to the challenges she was facing, she was still thinking about the province as a whole.”
Roy Vienneau’s husband, Ronald, was surrounded by family and friends as he left the church. He was often by her side at events she attended, and was a fixture in the front row at every one of her speeches.
“One of my favourite things in life was watching His Honour watch Her Honour when she was delivering a speech,” said family friend, Lisa Harris. “It’s such a love you could see in his eyes. His eyes danced. He glowed watching her. She was absolutely adored and loved.”
Roy Vienneau announced in September that she had been diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2018 and had been undergoing chemotherapy.
Roy Vienneau was one of the first women to graduate from the faculty of engineering at the Universite de Moncton and went on become vice-president of a campus at the Universite de Moncton and the first woman to direct a francophone community college in the province.
She also served as an assistant deputy minister for post-secondary education in the province and worked for 23 years as a dean, a department head and professor at the New Brunswick Community College in Bathurst. She was principal during her last six years at the college.
Flags at all provincial government buildings will be flying at half-mast until sunset Thursday.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Laura Brown and The Canadian Press