Recently, I was writing about Cobourg and the delights of small-town life, commenting on one of the town’s many low-key features; the spontaneous, out-of-left-field interactions between its citizens, aided by modern creations such as email. Last week was a prime example, producing a celebration of the life of long-time Cobourg resident, Alberta ‘Bert’ MacMillan. I wish I had known her. Like so many in our town, she was a force to be reckoned with, flying just below the community radar, a mover-and-a-shaker who, sadly, died on August 4 at Northumberland Hills Hospital. But, thanks to Cobourg resident Alma Draper and the many friends of Bert, the following is a short selection of the vast number of tributes and memories of one who made a difference … shared via email.
“Bert exuded kindness, compassion, a love of life, true friendship, support for even the wildest ideas. Add to the mix her incredible GPS mind, for she knew Northumberland County better than most.”
“Alberta was such a gracious hostess, whether on the spur-of-the moment coffee or a supper gathering, she made you feel so welcome.”
“Bert was a genuine person. Nobody is perfect. We all accept that. But Bert came damn-near close. She had a quiet presence about her and nothing was too much trouble. Her front porch was a desirable place to sit and watch the world go by. It was one of her favourite places and if anyone stopped, there was a glass of wine or a cup of coffee for them, no fuss, no muss.”
“Bert and I worked together on a number of Victoria Hall Volunteers fundraisers but our true bond emerged from our husbands’ deaths. I know one more beautiful human being is gone. Bert always said she was ready to go see her Tom, Cobourg’s late Town Crier. In her death, that part makes me feel good.”
“It is long overdue to publicly acknowledge women in our community who do so much, sometimes in the background as the working bees. We have the Working Man statue on King Street, Tom MacMillan’s and Dr. Scott’s plinths. Now we can have a bench in Alberta’s name.”
As Alma Draper, a friend of Bert, wrote to the many who knew her, “Several of us would like to see a memorial bench in Bert’s memory placed along the waterfront where she enjoyed walking every Monday and Wednesday morning with the Turtles walking group.” The cost of the white metal seat will be $3,000, which includes a plaque. Alma added, “As we grow older the more we realize how handy it is to have a comfortable seat on which to rest a while.” – and able to observe the ever changing scene of Cobourg’s waterfront; the varied bird life, the passing parade of dogs on their daily walk, watercraft heading out into the lake.
I can already hear donations being placed in envelopes, pens sweeping over cheques – to be made out to and mailed or delivered to Alma Draper, 10 Madison Avenue, Cobourg, Ont. K9A 5R2. It is a great project by which to remember Bert– through what will be very much a Cobourgian community initiative. And tonight, let’s raise a glass in memory of Bert.