A common sentiment among the friends, former colleagues and family that THE EQUITY spoke to about the life of the recently deceased former Shawville mayor, Sandra Murray was that the full extent of all the good she did for the community will never be known.
The former two-term mayor of Shawville was described as no nonsense, dedicated, responsible, kind, loving, straightforward, persistent and a great public servant.
Sandra worked for many years at the Pontiac Hospital in Shawville, eventually retiring as a paymaster. She was also the third woman to sit on Shawville’s municipal council and the first, and so far the only female, to sit as mayor of Shawville.
“She came in the store one day, and I said ‘Sandra, you’re a woman with stamina and you’re smart. So why don’t you join council’?” said Sylvia Hodgins, the second woman to serve on Shawville’s council after Rosaleen Dickson, who was the first.
After some initial hesitation, Sandra ran for council, according to Hodgins, which she then served on intermittently before becoming mayor in 2013.
Being one of the first women on council was a unique challenge, according to Hodgins.
“It wasn’t a totally welcoming scene,” said Hodgins about the early days of women of Shawville’s council. “Because some of the men didn’t really want women on council. But eventually, women could do the jobs that men could do.”
Former Mayor Albert Armstrong, Sandra’s predecessor and long-time friend and colleague of hers on council described her as a fierce defender of the taxpayer.
“She was a councillor during the 20 years that I was mayor and I had put her on the Budget Committee and the Finance Committee,” said Armstrong. “Sandra was someone that really liked to crunch the numbers. She loved the budget time. Most councillors would hate that time but Sandra loved it. One of the things Sandra would always say, was ‘look, we got to keep taxes down.’ She would say we still have to offer services but we still have to keep the taxes down so people won’t have such a difficult time.”
Both Armstrong and Hodgins described Sandra as tenacious when it came to advocating her point of view on council.
“She was a strong person in - I won’t say getting her own way - but in doing it the right way,” said Armstrong. “She was a really strong individual and persistent in what the municipality needed. She reminded us all the time what we needed to do.”
“She was no pushover,” said Hodgins.
While Sandra could get into political spats with other councillors, she was dedicated to her work and always brought in baked goods to share with her fellow councillors, according to Armstrong.
Armstrong’s friendship with Sandra went on long before their time on council together, with him recalling a time where he got into a car race Sandra down the seventh line in Norway Bay when they were young.
Armstrong recalled that during the race with Sandra, who was driving her mother’s car, was so persistent that he had to back off. This is just one of the good memories Armstrong had with Sandra, who also recalls going to Quebec City on municipal business and dinners with each other’s families.
Hodgins also recalls Sandra as a good friend who was involved in planning her 60th and 70th and birthday party and also her 40th wedding anniversary as well various other social gatherings. She emphasized that Sandra should be remembered as a public servant who did what she was put in office to do.
Sandra was also known for her work with the Lionettes, the Shawville United Church Women Unit 6 and various other public and personal charitable endeavours. She also sat on a number of committees and the board for the Pontiac Hospital before it was amalgamated into the CISSSO.
Crystal Webb, director general of the Municipality of Shawville worked with Sandra for over 20 years.
“I worked with her for quite a while,” said Webb. “She was a great mayor. She’s going to be missed, for sure. She loved her town and there’s so many good things I can say about her. She was such a kind, loving person. She was very fair and she was always looking out for the taxpayers, beautifying the municipality, always wanting it to look inviting to people when they would come into town and she was, you know, proud to be the mayor and a resident of Shawville.”
Jane Little Hayes, who worked with Sandra at the hospital and alongside her in the Lionettes described her as a dedicated Lionette who had a heart of gold.
“She is one of the most benevolent people probably Shawville has ever known and they don’t know most of what she’s ever done. But she has given herself, her wallet, her food and lodging to people that people don’t even know about.”
Hayes said that Sandra loved the Lionette’s Christmas dinner and was always a very active contributor to the group’s various causes.
Current Shawville Mayor Bill McCleary described Sandra as someone who worked hard for the municipality and left the town in good shape before she retired in 2021 due to health reasons.
Pontiac MNA André Fortin wrote a dedication to Sandra on Facebook saying: “A public servant, a community volunteer, a healthcare advocate, a Councillor, a Mayor (and a very good one), a dedicated wife, mother, grandmother, Sandra Murray was all about helping others and making life in her community better. Her life’s work made the Pontiac a better place and made Shawville even more tight knit. She was one of my very first and most loyal supporters, and I will miss her dearly.”
An overarching theme of everyone that spoke about Sandra was her hard work, dedication to the town she loved.
Her husband Barrie, who was married to Sandra for 59 years reiterated her straightforwardness and directness in the way she conducted herself.
“We had a great life together,” said Barrie. “We saw the world and we did everything we could. We were happy together. And then this happened that broke everybody’s heart.”
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