Our world is different today as our Mom, Mary Stella Decontie passed on away on May 5, 2020 in Barrie, ON. Many lives were touched by her kindness and her caring nature and life was better for knowing Mom. She is and always will be loved and missed by her husband, Joseph Budge of Gatineau, QC, and by her children, family, and friends.
Mary was born in Kitigan Zibi First Nation (then Desert River, QC) in 1936 to Barney and Nellie Decontie who she loved dearly. Mary spoke of fond memories of her childhood whether playing with her lifelong friend Dottie (Dorothy Scott) and Frank, the horse to happily tending to the vegetable garden with her mother, Nellie to playing card games with her father, Barney. Her brother Michael Decontie arrived when Mary was 14 years old and she was so happy to have him to love. Both Mary and Michael enjoyed a close relationship throughout their lives until his passing in June 2015.
When it was time for elementary school, she was thrilled to attend school and always liked to learn. This began Mary’s love of education and where her lifelong learning. Her secondary school education concluded with her attendance at St. Mary’s Indian Residential School in Kenora, ON where she met her first husband and the father of her children, Gordon Andrew Desmoulin.
When she was 18, Mary began her career as a Registered Nursing Assistant in Ottawa, ON then continued working in hospitals in Toronto, and Marathon, ON. As an RNA, she appreciated and enjoyed all aspects of her work, from delivering babies, assisting the Doctors, overseeing the care of patients in their recovery from illness and providing end of life care.
The importance of lifelong learning to Mary is very much reflected in the work she did as a Dental Assistant and later as a Welfare Administrator and Band Manager for the Pic River First Nation. She also owned and operated the Country Kitchen Restaurant in Marathon, ON. In 1984, Mary moved to Sault Ste Marie, ON where she was employed as a Court Worker and then as the Executive Director of the Sault Ste Marie Indian Friendship Centre. During this time, she become well known and liked in the court system and was invited to sit on the Board of Governors of Sault College. In 1998, Mary moved to Thunder Bay, ON where she attended and graduated from the Indigenous Law and Advocacy Program at Confederation College and began to work with the Chiefs of Ontario providing program support.
In 2005, Mary graduated from the Indigenous Language Instructors Program at Lakehead University. Being fluent in Algonquin, it was important to her to teach and nurture the advancement and retention of her Indigenous language. After moving to Ottawa in 2004, in her retirement, she taught Algonquin at the Wabano Centre in Ottawa, ON. In 2019, Mary with her son, James participated in UNESCO’s 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages and became recognized as an Algonquin Language Keeper.
Throughout her life, even after experiencing a stroke in 2017, she was still doing what she believed in; learning and educating through her involvement in civic duty and community. It is these values that Mary impressed upon her five children as well as bestowed to them the gifts of strength and resilience. She believed in helping people and being open to different points of view without judgement. She enjoyed travelling across Canada and the United States and was always willing to hit the open road as she loved to drive and to see new places and visit family as well as old and new friends.
Mary is survived by her five children; Mary Moran (Paul), Kevin Desmoulin, Elizabeth Janes (Craig), James Desmoulin (Lisa), Catherine West (Douglas), grandchildren, Keegan Janes (Olea), Dolan Janes and great grandchildren Margaret, and the twins Rosalyn and Frederick who know Mary as Grandma GG.
A celebration of Mary’s life will be held in Kitigan Zibi First Nation / Maniwaki, QC at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Mary asked that donations to Children’s Charities, Diabetes Canada and or The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.