Jeanne Maranda. Feminist. Book lover. Traveller. Friend. Born June 16, 1926, in Windsor; died April 7, 2021, in Saint-Sauveur, Que., of auto-immune thrombocytopenia and brain hemorrhage; aged 94.
How does one measure a life well lived? One could examine a curriculum vitae. Jeanne Cloutier started her career as a nurse and trained with the legendary Dr. W. Penfield in neurosurgery – impressive! After her husband, Jean Maranda, died tragically, and with four children (aged 17 years to 17 months) to feed, she started to work as a researcher for a popular television show and worked at her university degree at night. She graduated at 51 – well done! She became the first student enrolled in a new program, women’s studies, at Concordia University in Montreal. This led to her life’s passion: She became an activist to change the image of women in the media. Jeanne led MediAction, the francophone arm of MediaWatch, and Jeanne was awarded Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee medal in 2002 for this work – bravo! At 92, she self-published a book about this feminist work and it became part of the Me Too narrative – amazing!
But what about the life that is not on the CV? Even when she was raising her family, Jeanne was always into projects of some kind. She learned to do bookbinding – a lost art – which she took up again later in life. She was dancing folk dances, sewing, knitting, reading, listening to opera, making jam, batik, macramé, you name it. Jeanne never learned to drive, but friends with cars were always interested in going with her somewhere. She visited many countries, at first she travelled solo when few women did that; then, with her husband and later, with friends, family, and her two daughters, Suzanne and Louise.
Jeanne knew Montreal inside out, all the museums and art galleries, theatres and markets. She loved to show newcomers around and developed lifelong friendships (many in France where she travelled annually for years). She was a collector of art, not the kind of art that one finds in museums; She purchased pieces from struggling new artists. She had an eye for modern art and for antiques, before that was fashionable.
When she left Montreal at 80 years of age, her family thought it was a big mistake. She moved to Saint-Sauveur in the Laurentians, made new friends, volunteered, joined a walking club and was happy to share her love of books by volunteering at a secondhand bookstore. Repeat buyers came to chat about books and seek her advice. She once organized a children’s day to help “move” the books off the shelves. Everyone dressed in costume and Jeanne, at 92, told Suzanne that she was going to dress up as an old lady. As her daughter laughed, Jeanne clarified: Like an old lady from fairy tales! Forever young at heart, her vitality was infectious, and most easily fell under her charm.
Jeanne loved to talk, but not about her feelings. She never said “I love you” to her children or granddaughters, but it was easy for us to feel her devotion and her admiration; her encouragements were honest and she was always ready for a celebration.
When she died, her friends and family were in shock. “Invincible” was used frequently in response to the news. She lived a long life, lived as she pleased and died quickly, just as she wanted. Jeanne continues to be a role model: Her secret for a long life, well lived? “Always have projects.”
Suzanne Maranda is Jeanne’s eldest daughter
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