PIGOTT, Jean Elizabeth Morrison

Jean Pigott

PIGOTT, Jean Elizabeth Morrison

Jean Pigott passed away peacefully on January 10, 2012 surrounded by the love of her family and many friends. A lifelong resident of Canada's capital and a proud member of the fifth generation of her family to call the Ottawa and Gatineau valleys home, Jean is survived by her devoted husband and partner Arthur, her beloved children, John (Elizabeth), David (Janet) and MJ (George) and by her sisters and best friends Grete Hale and Gay Cook. Jean was the adored grandmother of Jane, Mary, Anne, William, James and Kevin and irreverent aunt of nephew Donald Cook (Fiona) and Kelly (Geoff). Great aunt to Ella and Dylan and Godmother to May Hyde. Jean was a mentor and friend to many who became part of her "adopted family". Predeceased by her parents, Margaret and Cecil Morrison, her sister Lydia, sister-in-law and beloved friend Mary Pigott, brothers in law, Reginald Hale and Robert Cook and her childhood friend Anne Hyde...who she never forgot. Jean was happiest at "The Farm" near Point Comfort Quebec, her second home throughout her life, making pickles, writing letters, reading books, chatting on the phone, playing with her grandchildren and her dogs. The end of a great day was sitting beside Arthur, overlooking the lake, surrounded by family with a single malt in hand and dinner in the oven. The family wishes to express our gratitude to the many individuals who gave their care and support to Mom: the staff at Grace Manor, New Edinburgh Square, Bruyere Continuing Care, CCAC and its agencies and the staff at the Monfort and Civic Hospitals. Jean was devoted to many causes and believed so much could be done simply by "getting involved". Please remember Jean by believing, joining and making a difference....as she would have told you, "it's easier than you think". The family will hold a private funeral for Jean. A public celebration of her life will be held at a later date.

Beloved Ottawa builder Jean Pigott dies at 87

OTTAWA — As news of her death spread rapidly across Ottawa Tuesday, friends and family remembered Jean Pigott as an indomitable spirit with an unrivalled passion for her country and community. Pigott died early Tuesday on the second floor of the Grace Manor on Wellington Street — the same floor and same location she came into the world 87 years ago. Her husband, Arthur, their three children and six grandchildren survive her, along with her sisters, Grete Hale and Gay Cook. Two strokes had robbed Pigott physically in her later years, but they couldn’t steal her enthusiasm for life and her boundless optimism.

To the last, she maintained an insatiable appetite for news from Parliament Hill and for the region and community that is engrained deep in the fabric of her large and storied family. “I saw her last on Sunday,” said her son John. “We watched the first period (of the hockey game) together. She loved the action. She couldn’t speak well, which frustrated her because she couldn’t tell us what to do. She hadn’t been well, but today came as a surprise. I guess it always does.” There were two sides to Jean Pigott, he added. “There was the public person — and the outpouring today has helped so much — but she was also a great woman,” he said. “She was a great mom, a classic grandmother and a phenomenal role model for girls.” Jean and Arthur, her husband of 56 years, had lived together at Grace Manor. They met in 1948 when she hired him to help run a family restaurant. “My father was the unsung person behind Jean,” said her son. “Dad was the glue.”

The passing of Jean Pigott is the passing of an era, said her sister Grete Hale. “Her love for family, friends, country and community just shone from her,” said Hale. “She couldn’t walk and couldn’t speak or see very well, but her mind was as sharp as ever and she was always positive. She was up to date on everything, especially politics.” Pigott was a businesswoman, politician and community activist. When the family bakery business was on the edge of bankruptcy in 1966, Pigott assumed the role of company president and gradually hauled it back into solvency. “It was 13 years before we paid our last debt,” said Hale, “but we paid it all.” (The company now operates three food plants producing for brand names, including President’s Choice). Pigott was elected Conservative MP for Ottawa Carleton in October 1976 and after a few months attempting to juggle both jobs, handed leadership of the family business to Hale, the next sister in line. “She couldn’t do both,” said Hale. “She loved being an MP. Her husband would say that their phone never stopped ringing because people knew she cared.”

If she loved life as an MP, her time as National Capital Commission chair from 1985-92 came a close second. “It was very special time for her,” said Hale. “She especially loved to talk to children about their capital. She had a passion for the entire region.”

Pigott is now surely looking down upon Ottawa as the city’s patron saint, said Mayor Jim Watson in a statement Tuesday. “Jean would inspire young and old alike with her ability to be the nation’s storyteller, and she was an inspiration to me personally as a young city councillor when I first met her,” he wrote, praising her work to create Confederation Boulevard as a national ceremonial route. Watson said he often borrows a line of hers: “Ottawa should be considered every Canadian’s second home town.” The mayor has asked for flags at City Hall to fly at half-staff until her funeral and there will be a minute’s silence at the next city council meeting). “She was truly an icon of Ottawa,” said Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder whose grandfather was a pastry chef at the Morrison-Lamothe bakery. “The three symbolize the best of what service is.” Pigott was an inspiration to her, Harder said, and never hesitated to share wisdom she’d built up as a trailblazing woman in Ottawa politics. “‘Don’t let those guys beat you down,’” Harder said. “That’s what she told me, right in that first council after amalgamation. And just like this,” Harder wagged a finger, and transformed her voice into something sharper. “‘Don’t let those guys beat you down, Jan!’” Rideau-Rockcliffe Councillor Peter Clark said he was shaken by the death of a woman who had been a friend for 30 years. Pigott was the only donor — $250 — to Clark’s first political campaign when he ran to be reeve of Cumberland in 1980 and won. “She had a very large heart,” Clark added.

“You can tell what kind of a person she was from the kinds of things she got involved with. Children’s studies at McMaster that she raised funds for, the NCC, the convention centre — she brought it from being in the red to operating it like a business. The city will really miss her.” Somerset Councillor Diane Holmes remembered Pigott as “one of the best NCC chairs we’ve had.” Pigott’s pride in Ottawa was infectious, and she tirelessly toured Canada to promote Canadians’ involvement in their capital. “She was very proud of the museums, for example, and she felt they should be seen by everyone in the country,” said Holmes. “She wanted us to feel about Ottawa the way Americans feel about Washington — to raise the same interest here in Canada.” As NCC chair and chief executive, Pigott had enormous power to improve the city, Holmes said. “She really had great skill sets for that job. She could talk to the prime minister and to cabinet ministers, and she had really good relations with federal and the local politicians, on both sides of the river.” But Pigott also brought a personal touch, Holmes recalled, possibly informed by the family business. “When you went to see Jean, she always had a plate of cookies, and you always got one.”

Longtime politician Marianne Wilkinson knew Pigott from the time she was a girl. The families lived close together southeast of downtown Ottawa and Wilkinson’s parents would go to the Morrison house for meetings of Moral Re-Armament, a Christian group aimed at promoting honesty, purity, unselfishness and love through good community works. “They didn’t have babysitters, so we all got hauled along,” Wilkinson remembered. Wilkinson recalled playing in the family’s huge yard, being a flower girl at the wedding of one of Pigott’s cousins and buying the occasional treat from the family bakery on Echo Drive. Wilkinson went into politics first, and the two traded notes on campaigning and fundraising. “Local campaigns and party campaigns are a bit different, but it was funny — when she ran for MP, she told me that what she did was she took all the business cards that anyone had ever given her and she called them all up to ask for help,” Wilkinson said. “That’s how she fundraised, that’s how she got her volunteers. She had a real grassroots campaign, which is the best kind to have, because then people stand behind you and they’re there for you, instead of you being sent by the party.”

Later, as National Capital Commission chair, Pigott showed a flair for innovation and an unusual gift for planning ahead, added Wilkinson. “She could look ahead and do things that would save money in the future, even if they were maybe a little harder at the time.” Pigott was from pioneer stock. “They were people who learned how to survive in those early days when the going got tough,” said Pigott’s sister Grete Hale. “And that was Jean. No matter how tough her life got, she never quit.” Pigott will be buried in the family plot at Beechwood Cemetery. Funeral arrangements will be announced in the next few days.

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