On May 11, hundreds of people from the Pontiac and beyond packed the church at Liberty Ministries in Aylmer Que. to commemorate the life and contributions of a pillar in the community.
With droves of people seated and standing in the room filled to capacity and several others standing outside the doors at Louise Lortie Séguin’s memorial ceremony on Saturday, it was evident that her impact on the lives of many didn’t go unnoticed.
On the morning of April 20, Lortie Séguin passed away suddenly after rolling her vehicle into a washed-out portion of a road in Quyon.
Her death has left many people in a state of shock and sadness, reflecting on all her work helping others in the community without expecting anything in return.
As a long-time volunteer and pioneer for drug and alcohol recovery services in the Pontiac, she contributed countless hours of her time to benefit the lives of people who often didn’t have anywhere else to turn.
Over the years, Lortie Séguin wore many hats in the field of community service, including spending time fostering children, rescuing animals and helping retirees enjoy the rest of their lives in maximum comfort.
Most notably, she made a name for herself thanks to her efforts with Maison Luskville helping recovering drug and alcohol addicts get sober – a job she dedicated herself to every day for 25 years.
The 10-room building hosted over 1,400 men from Ottawa to Toronto in hopes of turning their lives around for the better.
The door was always open and anyone seeking help was welcome.
According to her husband John Jolie, the two were inseparable.
Jolie met Lortie Séguin at a singles convention at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Ottawa in 1982. Their connection was instant and their desire to help people was imminent.
“We never separated from that day forward,” Jolie said.
Their shared passion for volunteer work allowed them to tirelessly help other people no matter what stood in their way. Both having very benevolent spirits, Jolie noted that his wife’s level of dedication was second to none when it came to helping others.
“It’s something that you can do as a job from eight to five,” he explained. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But to have what we had; it was a vocation. It was something that was built in you that you brought out and used.”
Jolie believes their blend of qualities and values were the optimal mix for them to do the work they were meant to do.
“I would say that that was her nature,” said Jolie. “As it was my nature, in a different way. We complimented each other very well like that. Her strengths in that area were my weaknesses. My strengths were her weaknesses.”
In their 37 years together, the two only took one vacation to British Columbia in 1986 for Expo 86. Besides that, all of their time was dedicated to Maison Luskville among other volunteering initiatives.
Lortie Séguin never demanded a lot when it came to her own sense of leisure and luxury. Her only wish was to go to Niagara Falls, which sadly never came true.
“We never got around to going and I feel bad about that,” said Jolie. “Because she didn’t ask for much.”
Around 25 years ago, while reading an article in Brown’s Beat of the Ottawa Citizen, Lortie Séguin saw a picture of a homeless man with his dog curled up in a blanket, which inspired her to take immediate action on the issue.
After seeing the photo, Lortie Séguin tracked down the photographer and eventually met the man she saw in the photo. Then, she took it a step further by putting herself in the shoes of the homeless by spending two weeks living on the cold streets of Ottawa.
Moved by the experience, it eventually led her to opening the Maison Luskville drug and recovery centre in 1990.
As tirelessly as she worked, Lortie Séguin spent the first 12 years operating Maison Luskville without a salary. All of the home’s expenses from food, to transportation and medication came out of her own pocket.
“There was never any money to spare,” said Jolie.
From driving the guys to their court dates, to monitoring and dispensing their medication and even making sure they went to church if they ever chose to, Lortie Séguin was committed to helping them as much as helping herself, according to her eldest daughter Ann Séguin-Huska.
“She’s done a lot,” said Séguin-Huska. “She was the type of person that if someone was sick and didn’t have any family, she was spending endless hours at the hospital by their side.”
Well known by local residents, government officials and judges alike, it never took long for her to get people’s attention and respect.
“She could walk into a room knowing nobody and before she left, she would know everybody,” said Jolie. “That’s the type of person she was. She had that gift.”
When Maison Luskville officially closed its doors in 2015, Lortie Séguin’s selflessness and benevolence persisted for as long as she lived.
For Séguin-Huska, her mother’s generosity and drive for helping others was apparent from a young age. As a child, she quickly realized that her mother always prioritized assisting those who needed it the most.
“I think she felt that we were okay and that we didn’t need 100 per cent of her,” she said. “But these people did need her so she did give a lot to others.”
Despite not having substantial disposable income to
spare, she always ensured a safe, stable environment for her family and was willing to do everything she could to help out people in less favourable positions, according to her youngest daughter Tina Roy.
“We didn’t grow up with a lot of money,” said Roy. “She would sacrifice herself. She would give her shirt off her back to someone else if they needed it. She was selfless.”
For Lortie Séguin , caregiving was more than her job – it was her endeavour and she loved each person she helped almost as much as her biological children.
“It was her baby and she took care of it,” said Jolie. “She was the mama bear, when it came to fighting for the boys.”
Lortie Séguin had to hold three jobs to support her family at one point. Roy recalls always having a set of clean clothes, food on the table and a gift under the Christmas tree.
The family lived in the Ottawa Housing Projects in the neighbourhood of Heatherington during the late 1970s and early 1980s, because that’s what they could afford. But her mother always made sure she could provide something for a family who had less than they did.
“She always managed to put a basket of food or some
thing together for somebody else in the projects that was worse off than us,” said Roy.
Having gone through tough times of her own, including seeing her house burn to the ground in 1984, she gladly took underdogs under her wing.
Whether it was waiting long hours at the hospital for a patient going through treatments or helping someone reintegrate themselves in their family lives she was always there if you needed her.
Lortie Séguin was a strong and resilient woman who never took no for an answer. She was never afraid to fight for what she believed was right and her determination in doing so was unrivaled, Roy said
“She would bring it to the next level,” Roy explained. “Go to the top and she had no problem breaking through red tape either to get those answers. Plus, the majority of the time it wasn’t for me. It was for other people.”
“She just always saw the positive,” she added. “She didn’t let anything knock her down.”
Besides being an extremely generous person and volunteer extraordinaire, Lortie Séguin was also an avid bingo fanatic who played the game with enthusiasm whenever she had time to spare, which was rare as she was usually dedicated to volunteer work.
“In reality she had to have breaks too,” said Jolie. “She loved bingo and she loved her family.”
With the countless volunteering initiatives and contributions that he and his wife have accomplished over the years, Jolie can only think about what could’ve been had he encountered his beloved a little sooner.
However, he wouldn’t trade his time with her for anything.
“We just did it and we were blessed,” said Jolie. “To be able to do with the gifts that God gave us. If we had met when we were 20 to 25 years old and had come together then I can imagine the things we could’ve accomplished.”
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