Born in Verdun on October 4, 1916, Irène Lavigne (née Legault) started her century during World War I, and reached its end with conflicts raging everywhere. Her father had a general store in Verdun. Married to Réal Lavigne in 1938, she moved with him to a farm in Fulford during World War II; he later became a blacksmith in Knowlton.
During her first 23 years of marriage, she had 15 children (11 girls and 4 boys), today ranging from 78 to 55 years old. All will attend the celebrations of her 100th birthday in Knowlton, along with many of her 60 grand, great-grand and great-great-grand children.
Though this is enough to occupy one’s entire life, Mme Lavigne still managed to muster the time and energy to be a major social action instigator from her kitchen HQ, dominated by an immense table that witnessed countless meals, homework, volunteer activities and family affairs.
As a charter member of the Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFÉAS) in 1966, she became involved, with a team of 25 local members, in the battle for women’s rights, the fight for equal remuneration and the lobbying of elected figures. Her regional group having faded away because more and more women were joining the work force, she launched the Comptoir familial in 1975, using space provided by St-Édouard church, to help support impoverished families. She remained its leader until the age of 95 and still is often consulted. The funds, obtained from the sale of modest-priced clothing and various goods donated by the community, are used to support local organizations, such as Au Diapason, the Wellness Centre and the hospital, as well as families getting back on their feet after a fire.
Irène Lavigne was always a go-getter and proved farsighted. For instance when her sons were looking at starting a heating-oil operation she told them straight out to go for it.
Today, she is surrounded at a stone’s throw from her house by half-a-dozen children who know how to return all the love she has always given them.
She has a passion for crossword and hidden-word puzzles, and is no slouch at Scrabble.
Our best wishes to the new centenarian.