Nathalie Sylvia Soucie was the life of the party, an outgoing and incredibly empathetic woman who made a big impact on the Fort Coulonge area.
A huge advocate for youth and sports, she also served on the municipal council and worked at the local high school.
Tragically, she passed away suddenly on March 25 at the age of 52.
Growing up, Nathalie was the baby of the family, with four older brothers. She attended St. Pierre and Poupore schools and was involved in all kinds of sports from a young age, everything from figure skating and hockey to baseball in the summer.
“She hated to lose,” said her husband Tom Sullivan. “Oh yeah, Nathalie was a very tough competitor. When she played anything it was play to win … ball, hockey it didn’t matter.”
“She was a tomboy,” said her mother Sylvia.
In addition to sports, Nathalie was an avid dancer as well, having been involved in Majorettes when she was young, but she was most passionate about the musical performances of Michael Jackson.
“When Michael Jackson was big on the scene she was the right age,” Tom said. “She could sing any song Michael Jackson sang, she would imitate how he moved.”
She attended high school at Ecole sécondaire Sieur de Coulonge, where she would eventually end up working. During this time her family operated the sports store in town and she spent many hours behind the counter helping customers and sharpening skates.
She attended school in the city and obtained a degree in administration and human resources, the first of her several qualifications, including social work. Sylvia said that her daughter had a passion for education.
“She’s a person that liked school,” Sylvia recalled. “She said, ‘If I was to win a million I’d stop working and just go to school.’ She never missed a day.”
This dedication translated well when she went to work in education. She had a job lined up in her home town before she had finished school, eventually settling in at her former high school, ESSC, as an administrative technician with a focus on special education.
“It was hard for her to miss a day, she was so dedicated,” Tom said. “It took a lot for her to not show up to work, something drastic. She had to be down and out, and that was rare. She liked to help kids, and I think she got gratification from that when she goes to work. She sees the people that are struggling and can use her help in different ways. …. if you like what you’re doing and you like your job you never have any problem getting up in the morning to go to work.”
Though she and Tom never had any children of their own, Nathalie was known to joke that she actually did have kids, 300 of them in fact, at her work. He said that she would head into work at 7:50 every morning, and would often stay later after classes were out. She was also the summer school coordinator.
“She would sometimes give her lunch to kids that didn’t have one, or go buy them lunch,” Sylvia said. “She just loved those kids.”
In 1999, her father, Hector Jr. stepped back from politics after 30 years as the mayor of Fort Coulonge, and Nathalie followed in her father’s footsteps, taking a seat on council that she would hold for six years.
Hector said that she was a big advocate of promoting extracurricular activities for students between the school and the local arena. He added that one of her biggest achievements was sitting on a committee through the Federation of Quebec Municipalities to promote women entering politics.
“She was on the committee for the Pontiac, and it created a movement to get more women on council, right through the MRC,” he said. “She even got a letter from the Minister of Municipal Affairs for her involvement in this.”
In 1998, she started dating the love of her life, Tom Sullivan, a Campbell’s Bay boy who had recently returned to the Pontiac from a mining job in the north. The two had known each other through mutual friends, but didn’t connect romantically until then.
“In ‘98 when I came back from the Yukon, I started to work at the Davidson Sawmill,” Tom remembered. “I just came home one night, she was riding her bike and we happened to just stop because I recognized her and we kept talking. That was 20 years ago, here we are.”
He said that she was pretty easy to find during hockey season, where she could reliably be found at one of two locations.
“I remember when I started going out with her, come winter time if you wanted to see her, there was a hockey game on every night, they were over at the arena working the canteen or I had to go see her at the store,” he said.
The two were wed in August 2001, in a big celebration on the family’s lawn. The ceremony was under a big tent that had been erected in the backyard, with nearby streets blocked off and hundreds of family and friends in attendance. Sylvia said that Nathalie insisted on getting everything done at home, from her hair and makeup to the food for the event.
“That’s what she wanted and I’m telling you it’s a lot of work,” Sylvia said emphatically.
Hector and Tom had a laugh remembering the chaos that ensued after black squirrels had chewed some of the electrical cords powering all the lights and equipment.
“We had to run another generator just to have the juice that we needed because there was not enough coming out of the house,” Tom said.
To relax, the couple loved taking trips to the family cottage, boating, snowmobiling or otherwise enjoying the outdoors.
“She had her hunting card, but it was very hard for her to pull the trigger,” Tom said. “She liked to go for the scenery, the conversation, the trip, but… even if it was just a small shotgun or a .22, I’ve never see her pull the trigger.”
Sylvia and Nathalie made an annual pilgrimage to the shrine at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, and she never missed a trip in 34 years.
However her biggest joy in life was other people in general and children in particular, whether it was nieces, nephews or her
kids at school.
“She was very open with anybody she met, there was no just walking by you and ignoring you,” Tom said. “Then if she stopped and said hi, now you’re stuck for at least 15 minutes.”
“My children and great grand children, when they come in here they wouldn’t say, ‘Where’s grandma?’ they’d say ‘Where’s Nat?’” Sylvia said.
“She was like a big kid herself in certain ways,” Tom said. “It was so funny sometimes because when she was around kids she just liked to play with them. The more they laughed and giggled, the more it made her laugh. [She was] full of energy all the time.”
Hector said that he and his family were extremely grateful to the staff at the CLSC in Fort Coulonge for their help, and encouraged anyone looking to make financial contributions in Nathalie’s memory to donate there or to the local church.
“I think she was too perfect, that’s why they took her away,” Sylvia concluded.
While sorting through pictures to include with the article, Tom wrote a short tribute to the love of his life that’s been included below.
Gone but never forgotten
In the 23 years I have been with my (departed) wife Nathalie, our many memories of enjoyment will remain always with me and those that knew her. These pictures tell a vivid description of her life but to all those that knew her, pictures are only memories. Nathalie has touched the hearts of many and she will be greatly missed. My best friend no more, but always in my heart and mind forever more.
Your families and husband Tom
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