Story and photo by Bradley Turcotte –
Grete Hale hopes to have more time to read this summer as she recently stepped down from the board of directors of Beechwood Cemetery after 12 years as Chair.
Chairman Emeritus of Morrison Lamothe Inc., a national frozen food company that her father, Cecil Morrison, founded as a bakery in 1933, Hale has parlayed her business acumen into an illustrious philanthropic career.
Hale’s diverse accomplishments include founding Friends of Library and Archives of Canada in a successful attempt to preserve historical literature, serving on the board of CANHAVE Children’s Centre, which provides school fees for African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and working with the Minister of International Trade during NAFTA negotiations.
At 86, Hale’s mantle is overflowing with awards. Hale received the Order of Canada in 2007. Her titles include Canadian Women Entrepreneur of the Year and Senator in the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.
While her proficient life has contained as much adventure as a bestselling page-turner, Hale says her achievements during her 23 cumulative years on the board at Beechwood Cemetery are paramount.
One triumph of note is defeating developers keen on annexing some of Canada’s National Cemetery’s land. Instead, Hale oversaw the construction of an outdoor classroom for elementary school students.
Hale also cites the creation of the cemetery’s “sacred space” to host all 29 active religious denominations in the city as a personal highlight.
“It’s almost been my second home,” Hale explains. “I’ve done it happily. I’ve never begrudged one hour that I was meant to be there,” adding that she “felt the time had come to pass the hat.”
Hale’s lifelong home, Fuller Street’s historic Bayne House, was built in 1828 and saw countless charity events staged by Hale’s parents on its once sprawling lands.
“I look back, I think I was about 13 years old,” Hale reminisces. “My mother said ‘after suppertime I want you to come with me,’ this was during the Second World War. She said ‘we’re going to go and pack food parcels for Britain.’ What we were doing in one evening helped a family in Britain I didn’t know survive. It stuck in my mind, that you could do that. That never left me. Put out a helping hand. You can make a difference if you care. It doesn’t cost anything to give. That’s why my life is so rich, fun and eventful.”
As for summer reads, Hale reminds readers of Friends of Library and Archives of Canada’s annual September book sale, which is where she picked up many of the titles in her current queue, including Mary O’Hara’s collection of poems and prayers, Celebration of Love.
There’s a familial connection to Cathy Le Feuvre’s William and Catherine, which Hale says she is about half way through. Hale’s late husband’s great grandfather married William and Catherine Booth, who went on to found the Salvation Army.
“It’s their love letters to each other and how it evolved,” Hale explains, “I haven’t got to the part where they founded the Salvation Army yet. It’s a very touching story.”
Former Regional Contact co-host Kathie Donovan’s Inspiration in Action also makes Hale’s list.
“I like opening it and just reading a page,” Hale says. “You can pick it up and open it anywhere; just to get some inspiration.”
Barbara Frum: A Daughter’s Memoir written by Linda Frum and To Serve Them All My Days by R.F Delderfield, round out Hale’s reading list.
This post is part of our KT summer reads issue. Read all of our other profiles right here.
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