Sunday, May 19, 2024

A man of the community: remembering Laurie MacKechnie

The community of Quyon lost an icon last month with the passing of Laurie MacKechnie on Feb. 3. He was remembered as one of the founding members of the local Lions Club, a successful businessman and real estate agent but ultimately as a tireless contributor to his home town.
Laurie grew up west of town on a large Ayershire dairy operation, Bonnishade Farms, the son of Wyman and Cora. He attended elementary school nearby, but travelled to Shawville for high school, where he boarded during the week and came home on weekends.
According to his daughter, Donna Kennedy, he was soon driving the milk truck and making deliveries door to door. That’s how he met the love of his life, Mona Young.
“She’ll be the first one to say she actually chased him, she was six years younger,” Donna said. “She’d watch for that milk truck to go by and occasionally he’d let her go for the ride.”
After a few years of courting, they were wed in 1955 and remained at each other’s side for the next 65 years. Early in their marriage, they took over the IGA store in Quyon and moved into the apartment upstairs. Laurie took to customer service like a fish to water.
“It was a job that he absolutely loved … he loved talking with people, meeting with people, helping people,” Donna said.
“I don’t remember when I started working but I remember I was putting cans on shelves when I was about five,” recalled Laurie’s son Chris with a laugh. “We always had a summer job and a job after school lined up whether we wanted it or not.”
Chris also remembered that his dad used all the interaction with people to take part in one of the pastimes he enjoyed the most, stirring the pot.
“He loved arguing with people, certain people, where it was almost his favourite sport,” he said. “If you talk to certain customers who used to come to the store regularly, they would always joke that they couldn’t come in without having an argument about something.”

MacKechnie behind the counter of his store in Quyon.

“Somebody sent me a card here saying that Laurie was the only man that could debate one side of the situation one day and flip over to the other side the next,” Donna said. “He just loved to tease and loved to debate and got a real thrill out of just getting people a little bit irked … just getting them riled up … He especially loved to tease his sisters in law. He drove them crazy, but they still loved him for it.”
“In the rest of his life it probably served him really well, he ran a successful business, he did an awful lot of community work and in a lot of these cases he’s the person that would play devil’s advocate,” Chris added.
Early on in their marriage, Laurie and Mona also fostered a young boy from the neighbourhood whose home had been destroyed in a fire. They also went on to raise three children of their own.
“I can’t imagine what that might’ve been like, just married, brand new business and now an eight year-old boy that they were about to raise for the rest of his life!” Donna wrote in an email. “I’ve always been extremely proud of what my parents did for this young boy who later became known as my big brother.”
Laurie loved getting to know people and was heavily involved with community organizations, from the Quyon United Church, to the Quyon Centennial committee to local council. He was a driving force behind the Pontiac Pride festival as well as the Quyon Jamfest. He helped with the construction of the ball fields in town as well as the Quyon Community Centre. He also sat on committees outside of town, like the board at the Pontiac Reception Centre or the Norway Bay Cemetery and was an keen curler at the club in Shawville.

MacKechnie as a town councillor in Quyon, circa 1965.

He was also extremely dedicated to the Quyon Lions Club, which he helped found in 1967. He would work his way up the regional hierarchy as well, eventually achieving the prestigious position of Governor.
“He just, lived and breathed it, it was his life really,” Donna said.
“We were born and raised to … if you’re going to be a part of the community you need to work in the community to make it a better place,” said fellow charter member Bob Young. “He was a very focused gentleman. When he was thinking about or looking towards having something done, he’d leave very few stones unturned to accomplish that.”
“He was a bit of a mentor you could say … bit of an inspiration, because … nothing was impossible [to him], let’s put it that way,” said friend and fellow Lion Rolly Bernier. “He was that kind of a motivating person.”
After selling the store in the mid-1980s, Laurie kept himself busy by getting into the real estate game, which he continued well into his “retirement years”.

Laurie MacKechnie as a real estate agent in the late 1980s.

“This is where not only do you get to visit with the people that walk into your grocery store, now you get to know where everybody lives, where they want to live, where their house was … he just dove into real estate,” Donna said.
With his incredibly sociable nature, he was well-suited to his new career. Donna and Chris both recalled their father’s incredible drive to keep in touch with the people in his life.
“Sometimes you figure out things about your parents after they’re gone, but … I didn’t realize that my dad would go [the] Pontiac Community Hospital and just stroll around the hallways and just see who was in the rooms so he could go and visit whoever was ill just keep them a bit of company,” she said. “I didn’t know that until after he was gone, but he loved to visit.”
“You couldn’t keep him home, every day involved a drive to Shawville or Bryson or Campbell’s Bay or somewhere else because he didn’t like to stay in one place very long,” Chris said. “He had several regular groups. My entire lifetime, at three o’ clock he would disappear for an hour, going up to one of the local garages where a whole group of Quyon businessmen gathered at this particular garage and would have a coffee and conversation. There weren’t very many social events that my parents didn’t go to, whether it was an anniversary party, wedding reception or a birthday or even a funeral. They kind of went to them all.”
When talking about Laurie, many of those closest to him had a hard time cataloguing the numerous groups and causes that he had lent his considerable talents to.
“Him and Mona were and are very community-minded people. No question about that,” Young said. “They talked the talk and they walked the walk.”

A photo from the early 1930s shows Lorna, Laurie, Douglas and Ronald MacKechnie.


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