Jacqueline Thibodeau »



Interview by Stéphanie Simard
Images © Miguel Lalonde Photography

Stéphanie: Where are you from?
Jacqueline: I was born in Notre-Dame-des-Champs, and grew up on a dairy farm in Navan. In 1976, I moved to Vanier, and the following year to Rockland. My paternal grandparents lived in Rockland. I used to visit them on weekends. You could say I’ve returned to my roots. I’ve lived there ever since.

Stéphanie: Where did you attend school?
Jacqueline: I did my grade 9 at Belcourt High School in Ottawa. The following year, I was lucky enough to be part of the first wave of students to attend the new École secondaire catholique Garneau in Orleans.

Stéphanie: Tell me about your career.
Jacqueline: For 34 years, I worked for the federal government, with the employment insurance program. I had the good fortune of having been able to take several valuable courses. I’m a certified life coach, and a Certified True Colours Facilitator, which enables me to assess personalities. From 1983 to 1984, I owned a Sears franchise in Rockland. I was also the bookkeeper for a real estate company. I really enjoyed my work with the federal government, but I have to say that owning the Sears franchise in Rockland was an extraordinary experience! It was great to work directly with people.

Stéphanie: What is a life coach?
Jacqueline: It’s the art of asking the right questions. When you’re coaching, you don’t provide solutions, and you don’t show people how to do things. Usually it is for someone who has a specific project or goal, but doesn’t know how to proceed. The individual has to want to move forward. You start from the principle that every individual is unique, and we all have different values. You keep asking the right questions until a person makes their own decisions and finds ways to pursue their dreams and achieve their objectives.

Stéphanie: You decided to volunteer to keep helping?
Jacqueline: Yes. I retired in 2010, which is when I decided to get involved with the community.

Stéphanie: Which organization did you start with?

Jacqueline: I am on the Board of Directors of the Association des artistes de Clarence-Rockland (AACR). I have been involved with it since it was established in 2009. Our mission is to introduce the public to the visual arts, such as painting, sculpture, mixed techniques, glasswork, etc. The association helps provide exposure. There is no jury. It gives artists without experience or training the chance to show their work.

Stéphanie: I see that this will be the AACR’s 10th anniversary. Are you planning anything special?
Jacqueline: Absolutely! On September 28, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., we will be holding a special event in the Optimiste Performance Hall in Rockland. There will be an exhibition of works by current members, former members and students from École secondaire catholique L’Escale. At 3 p.m., a work will be created live by BernArt en studio. It will be filmed and aired on TVC22. At 4:30 p.m. will be the unveiling of the collective work produced by the community during different activities over the past year. It will consist of four canvases representing the four seasons of Clarence-Rockland. It will be offered to the City, and become a permanent exhibit, possibly at the YMCA. There will also be the unveiling of a bench, created by craftsman François Gour and painted by the AACR artists. The bench will be offered to the Clarence-Rockland Public Library.

Stéphanie: What advice would you have for someone looking to get involved in their community?
Jacqueline: I believe you have to follow your heart and your interests. For myself, it was the arts. I didn’t have any experience serving on committees. I started as the Director of Communications for the Association, and did that for three years. I then accepted the job of Vice-Chair, which enabled me to observe and learn the role of the Chair. I have been the Chair for four years now. You have to go at your own pace, and pursue your passions that you want to share with the community.

Stéphanie: Do you have time to invest in other organizations?
Jacqueline: Yes. I’m on the founding committee of the Association du patrimoine familial francophone de l’Ontario (APFFO) and on the Board of TVC22, the Clarence-Rockland community TV station.

Stéphanie: What is the APFFO?
Jacqueline: Our mandate is to make people aware of the importance of conserving our heritage in order to be able to pass it on to today’s and tomorrow’s generations. Archives are very important. When our parents are gone, we won’t know what to conserve for future generations. At this point, we are working on developing a kit that we will hand out to our members. That kit will be a reference tool for conserving the family heritage. These days, documents are often in digital format, but hard copies are just as important to conserve. People over 50 are aware of the importance of that kind of information.

Stéphanie: Has the APFFO been around for a long time?
Jacqueline: The association was founded in 2015. I have been on the Board since 2014. We have worked hard since the outset. In addition to the kit, we have another project that involves sharing family mementoes to bring to life and conserve all those beautiful stories. People have to be made aware of the importance of passing on their stories. In time, if people agree, we could publish them.

Sharing the past in this manner would benefit the community. It calls to me, and I really feel strongly about it. The sense of family is one of my values. We only exist through our bonds with our ancestors.

“We only exist through the links of our ancestors.”

Stéphanie: Do you have any other passions besides your commitment to the community?
Jacqueline: Well, of course, I’m a writer. My book is closely tied to heritage. There is a lot of genealogy in my work. I’m told that my book Y fallait oser has provided a heritage for the region. In fact, the book is a history of things my mother lived through. When my grandmother died in 1938, my mother and my aunt were five and eight years old, and were placed in St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Ottawa. My grandfather abandoned them two years later. My mother always wanted to find out why her mother died. She had no photos of her. She didn’t know where she was buried. So I spent ten years trying to find the answers to her questions. This work is my heritage.

Stéphanie: What a journey! Was it difficult to do that research?
Jacqueline: It was very difficult. I started with a photo of my grandfather. I didn’t know when he was born, and I didn’t have any photos of my grandmother. I contacted a cousin, and over time, eventually, certain things started to come to light. I had to pay very close attention, and collected information intuitively, using some rather unorthodox procedures. Aside from the historical interest, I published my book thinking about helping others who might be looking for their families.

Stéphanie : What does the future hold for Jacqueline?
Jacqueline: I will continue painting and pursuing my passions, and at the same time remain involved in the community. I will finish what I started with certain associations. I want to keep enjoying life, surrounded by my family and friends, on the golf course, at the cottage and travelling.