Educator, community champion leaves indelible mark

    SAMSONVILLE: A passionate educator and tireless volunteer and community champion continues to be mourned by family, friends, and the countless people whose lives she touched in Richmond County and beyond.

    Eva Landry, a native of Cap La Ronde, who made her home in Samsonville, passed away on Jan. 3, at the age of 86.

    “She was always there for everyone,” Peggy Ouellette – a long-time friend and colleague – told The Reporter, adding that Landry did everything with “grace and humour.”

    They met more than 55 years ago; both educators early in their careers and working at the same school.

    “Her love of people, love of children,” Ouellette offered, when asked what made Landry a great educator.

    Growing up on the easternmost point on Isle Madame, then Eva Mauger had her sights set on becoming a psychiatric nurse; one of the tidbits she shares with readers of her autobiography Just a Farm Girl. Her father, the then chairman of trustees for Cap La Ronde, convinced the teenager to apply for a teaching certificate.

    Even after later starting classes at Normal College in Truro, her father enrolled her, she was not convinced that education was her calling. She only embraced the field after her first practice teaching sessions.

    That spawned a more than 42-year career, one that started in a Richmond County one-room schoolhouse, which also included time as a reading specialist. After being named one of the first female principals in the county, Landry became its first superintendent of schools. In 1980, she became the first female inspector of schools in Nova Scotia.

    “I greatly admired Eva,” Ouellette said, noting her confidence and competency.

    She added that Landry was unflappable.

    “I never saw her out of sorts.”

    Ouellette offered that Landry was “hell bent” on providing children with the opportunity to get and further their education. She added that she wanted the same for her teaching colleagues; as an administrator, always encouraging them to take advantage of any way in which to improve, including professional development opportunities.

    “Eva gave you the confidence that you could do anything that you wanted to do,” she said.

    Ouellette added, “I and so many others learned so much from her.”

    Even though she never had her as a teacher, Richmond Warden Amanda Mombourquette learned a great deal from Landry.

    “I was always aware of her presence and impact on the community,” she said.

    When she returned home after graduating from university, Mombourquette remembered that Landry was “very much on the scene,” when it came to giving her time to organizations and initiatives that focused on the betterment of their community.

    She said she was “really lucky” to start working with Landry, one of the founders of the Village on the Canal Association (VOCA) in St. Peter’s.

    “It brought her a lot of joy,” Mombourquette offered of her friend’s passion for getting people involved in their community.

    She noted that Landry loved people from “all walks of life.”

    “Eva had a really kind heart.”

    Along with her contributions to VOCA, Landry provided her time and expertise, including as a board member, to the St. Peters Catholic Church Centennial, Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic, and Enterprise Cape Breton.

    And, for more than 50 years, she was unendingly dedicated to the 4-H movement in Richmond County. She and her husband of 64 years, Doug, were key contributors to the development of Camp Rankin in Cape George. The couple was also instrumental in the creation of the MacAskill House Museum in St. Peter’s.

    “Eva did the things that most folks would not have done, or forgotten to do,” Mombourquette said.

    She added, “There was no end to her attention to detail.”

    Mombourquette remembered an example from a few years ago of her displaying those enviable qualities, when Landry led the organization of a celebration at Camp Rankin. She ensured that members of the “very first garden club,” considered to be the precursor of the 4-H movement in Richmond County, were included in the festivities.

    “She was so touched,” Mombourquette said of her grandmother, Ora Burke, one of the originals invited to the celebration.

    One of the myriad activities that is part of Landry’s legacy is the Festival of Trees in St. Peter’s, which she founded almost 30 years ago. The annual two-day event, one that has something to offer for all ages, includes a spectacular display of decorated Christmas trees and a venue for local performers to showcase their talent.

    “Everyone has so much fun,” Mombourquette offered.

    She noted that one of the highlights each year has been a ticket draw for a “spectacular gingerbread house,” one fashioned by Landry, who was an accomplished cake decorator and gingerbread creator.

    “It was a huge source of pride for her,” Mombourquette said.

    Like so many celebrations over the past few years, the Festival of Trees was upended by the COVID-19 global pandemic, so its silver anniversary was delayed and only marked last November.

    “We were so glad that she was able to be with us,” Mombourquette said of Landry.

    Eva and Doug, great lovers of the outdoors, as described in her obituary, spent many summer hours on the Bras d’Or Lake; sailing their boat Moonshine; kayaking and watching eagles fly. And, as the seasons changed, she filled her winter months with downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. She was also a dedicated member of the Autumn Joy Gardening Club.

    “She was a political animal,” Mombourquette said of the die-hard Progressive Conservative.

    Nevertheless, she noted, Landry’s political leanings didn’t influence her decisions, when it came to helping people and her community.

    “It never got in the way.”

    Landry ran twice for the provincial PCs, led by then-Premier John Buchanan, in Richmond County, losing the second vote, a 1980 by-election, by only 60 votes. Over the following decades, she continued her dedicated service to the party, both locally and provincially, including spending time as chairperson of the PC Richmond County Women’s Association.

    Her life of service garnered a variety of honours, including the Order of Canada, Order of Nova Scotia, Queen’s Jubilee Medal, 4-H National Volunteer of the Year Award and Leadership Award from the Canadian 4-H Council.

    “I don’t know anyone that would have a cross word to say about Eva,” Ouellette said.

    She noted that she is “really going to miss” their cherished phone conversations.

    “It is a big loss – not only for St. Peter’s, but also all of Richmond County,” she added.

    Mombourquette agreed, offering that the municipality and its residents are “all the better for having had her in our lives.”

    “We will miss her.”

    Landry’s funeral took place on Jan. 7 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church.