Mother, teacher, storyteller, founder of Mary’s Meals Canada. Born Dec. 30, 1958, in Port Hope, Ont., died June 30, 2013, in St. Catharines, Ont., of colon cancer, aged 54.
Bridgid believed she lived on the bright side of the street. Once, on a canoe trip, she found herself up a creek without a paddle when both of hers broke. She spotted something on a rock: It was a brand new paddle with the price tag still attached.
That paddle got her home, where she put it on display as a symbol of hope.
She was a naturally gifted teacher, both inside and outside the classroom, with a taste for adventure. She believed she could make the world a better place by helping one child at a time and inspiring others to do the same.
Born in Port Hope, Ont., to John and Gretta McGuire, who emigrated from Ireland in 1952, Bridgid grew up in Toronto. As a child, she loved her dad’s stories about growing up poor with eight siblings, the eldest of them sleeping in the barn. She was proud of what her parents accomplished after crossing the Atlantic with just $80 and a lot of dreams.
As a teen she headed across Canada by train, with a stop in North Battleford, Sask., to explore, with her sister, locations where their beloved Joni Mitchell once lived and wrote songs about.
In her 20s, she married and raised two children, Travis and Colleen, to be independent, resourceful and full of wonder. As a young mom she earned two university degrees, one course at a time, landing her dream job as a Catholic elementary school teacher in Niagara Falls when she was 38.
She had a talent for spotting what made each child special. She wrote her own stories, including one featuring Superman. She didn’t just tell the stories, she performed them with all the drama of an actor, to the delight of the kids, who hung on every word and begged for more.
On April Fools Day in 1999 she met Michael Davidson, the man with whom she would share the rest of her life and many adventures, from zip lining in Alaska to a religious pilgrimage in Bosnia.
Following her cancer diagnosis, her first surgery and during a round of chemotherapy, she hosted a backyard wedding in 2010 in her beautiful garden, surrounded by what she called her “happy flowers.” It was a magical event for everyone as Bridgid danced the night away under the stars and told everyone she felt lucky and grateful, even with cancer.
In 2011, Bridgid made it her mission to set up a Canadian branch of Mary’s Meals International, which feeds children at schools in poor countries around the world. Early this year she succeeded, and then organized the first of what she hoped would be many Oatmeal Days at schools in the Niagara Region to inspire children here to help those hungry elsewhere. This volunteer work allowed her to continue teaching life lessons long after cancer took her out of the classroom.
As the cancer lurked, Bridgid faced more operations and more chemo with her trademark smile, strong faith and unwavering hope that just up ahead, on the next rock, she would find another paddle to take her home.
Mary McGuire is Bridgid’s sister.