Irène Lavigne, who has died at 102, was a prominent figure in volunteer and social life in Knowlton and was the matriarch of the Lavigne family.

Irène Legault was born in Verdun on October 4, 1916, where her father owned a general store. The Legault family moved to a farm in Fulford a few years later. Irène married Réal Lavigne in 1938. Réal was born in Waterloo where he learned the blacksmith trade from his father. The couple moved to Knowlton in 1942 with their little family and Réal carried on business blacksmith 9 Lakeside Road.

Madame Lavigne raised 15 children and still managed to muster the time and energy to be a major social action instigator from her kitchen, dominated by a large table that witnessed countless meals, homework assignments, volunteer activities and family dramas. She passed on her love of quilting, growing vegetables and cooking wonderful desserts to future generations of the family. As her children will attest, she always knew at what time they came back home at night.

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. 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. 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 is survived by all her 15 children, aged 58 to 80 years old, and 34 grandchildren, 51 great-grandchildren, and 12 great-great-grandchildren. Her husband Réal died in 1994.