Hon. Mabel DeWare passed away peacefully in Moncton NB on August 17th, 2022. She is survived by her loving children, Peter (Sandra) and Joanne (Peter); grandchildren Tracey (Jacques), Bradley (Kelly), Jennifer, Tara (Bruce), Barry (Rebecca), Alexander (Chrissy), Becky (Robert), Emily (Neil), and Peter (Camilla); great grandchildren, Alexandre, Harrison, Benjamin, Maxwell, Jackson, Olivia, Finlay, Riley, Nicholas, Sophie, Brody, James, Rhea, and Ellie; and sisters-in-law Anne Keiver and Agnes DeWare. She was predeceased by her loving husband Ralph, her sons Kimberley (Diane) and Michael (Catherine) as well as her siblings Robert (Anne) Keiver and Marion (Wes) MacLeod.
Mabel DeWare was born in Moncton, N.B. on August 9, 1926 the youngest child of Mary and Hugh Keiver. Ralph and Mabel married in 1945 and returned to Moncton to raise their four children following Ralph’s graduation from dental school in Halifax.
Mabel DeWare was an extraordinary example of what is possible. Born to a family of very modest means, she navigated her life by weaving four important fibres together: Family, Volunteerism, Sport, and Public Service. She would argue that the strength of her family and their genuine bonds of affection and loyalty were her crowning achievement. Mother to 4 children, grandmother to 9, and great grandmother to 14 is no small feat! Mabel was devoted to her family at every stage of her life relishing in their accomplishments and sharing their challenges.
Mabel’s understanding of “family” extended far beyond the biological ties which connect us. Mabel recognized the essential importance of community and the benefits to all derived from living within a tight-knit community. Active in volunteering with the YMCA, YWCA, United Way, and Canadian Curling, Mabel made her mark. Mabel was known to be truly dedicated to the idea of community and ensured that every neighbourhood that was graced with her residence profited from this guiding principle regardless of whether her “neighbours” were folks in the Old West End, Highfield Street, the Legislature in Fredericton, the Parliament in Ottawa, and the Florida compound, Shediac Cape or most recently Canterbury Hall. Mabel was thrilled in 2020 when she was asked by the YMCA to be the honorary chair of their 150th anniversary in recognition of her longstanding commitment to the organization and her community during the course of her lifetime.
In early adulthood, Mabel was nationally recognized for abilities in the sport of curling after winning several provincial titles and the Women’s Canadian Curling Championship title in 1963. To date Mabel and her talented teammates on the 1963 rink remain the only New Brunswick team to win a National Championship. Mabel was instrumental in the establishment of the Women’s World Curling Championships, which is still celebrated today and is just one example of her many attempts to bring curling into the mainstream world of sport. Mabel was inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 1987.
As impressive as her contributions to her family, her communities and sport, Mabel’s contribution to public service was even more astounding. Mabel was elected to New Brunswick legislature for two consecutive terms under the Hatfield government in ’78 and ’82, where she held three cabinet posts. Mabel’s political career was marked by another series of “firsts” none more important than being appointed the first female Minister of Labour in 1978. When visiting a mine in northern New Brunswick early in her tenure as Minister of Labour she was questioned on what SHE could possible know about “labour”? Mabel did not miss a beat but quickly retorted to the assembly of men “I know more about labour then any of you ever will! A woman in labour always delivers!!”.
Mabel’s service to her country extended from the Provincial to the Federal realm when she was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1990 serving as one of the ten representatives in the Senate of the people of New Brunswick. In April, 1999 she became the first women in parliamentary history to be appointed Opposition Whip, and in this position she remained until her retirement in 2001. One other role Mabel adopted during her eleven years in Ottawa that is perhaps not found in the history books but which she absolutely relished was acting as Santa Claus each Christmas wearing a special “blue” Santa suit.
Her Colleagues will remember her as a tour de force with the brightest spark, while her friends and family will fondly remember her smile, her unmistakable laugh, and celebrations at their home on Highfield Street and at the shore in the Carriage House.
It is fitting to note the comments of Senator John Lynch-Staunton in the Senate in June 2001 as he addressed Mabel at the time of her retirement. Senator Lynch-Staunton noted:
“Mabel has always taken a tremendous personal interest in each and every one of her caucus colleagues. I have no doubt that Mabel is privy to more personal joys and sorrows of her colleagues than even some of their families. She is simply the person to whom one goes because she is simply Mabel”.
Simply Mabel has proven herself to be simply extraordinary.
Mabel’s family would like to thank the staff at Canterbury Hall for their exceptional care and friendship during Mabel’s time with them; the staff in Palliative Care at the Moncton Hospital; and Dr. Sylvie LeBlanc for her dedicated care and support. If you wish to honour Mabel’s life, donations can be made to the Friends of the Moncton Hospital, Dr. Kim DeWare Endowment Fund or the Mabel DeWare Scholarship Fund c/o of the YMCA.
Visitation will take place at Fair Haven Funeral Home on Friday August 26th from 6:00 - 8:00 pm and a celebration of life will be held at 2:00 pm on Saturday August 27th at the Hotel Beausajour Ball Room, 750 Main St., Moncton NB with a reception immediately to follow. Online condolences and memories can be forwarded to the family at www.fairhavenmemorial.ca.