For Madeleine Piette, it is important to be caring and giving in all aspects of life, and not be afraid of lending a hand to those who are less fortunate.
The youngest of nine children, Piette (née Pelletier) was born in Sturgeon Falls in 1935. At age four, her family moved 250 km north, where her millwright father found work in the mines of Matachewan.
Some years later, Piette returned to Sturgeon to attend a Catholic high school that also offered students room and board on campus. She remembers her mother as deeply committed to community. As a youngster, Piette would often accompany her mom, who volunteered with an agency devoted to children’s welfare.
“I learned first-hand the importance of helping others. My mother was a very gentle person. Her caring nature and responsibility to community inspired my own passion for volunteering.”
That sense of community was ingrained in Piette’s personality early on. In boarding school, she tutored two classmates from Québec who wanted to learn to speak English.
“Every chance we got, we spent time practising in the library and, by Christmastime, they both conversed confidently in English. That was an enlightening experience because I realized that my help, even in such a small way, would open up opportunities in their future careers that they might not have had otherwise.”
She married Claude Piette in 1955. They were 19 and 20 years old, respectively. The newlyweds started life together in Rouyn-Noranda, Québec, then relocated frequently across Northern Ontario as Claude accepted promotions in his field of mine engineering. In 1964, they settled in Sudbury, where Claude worked at Inco until his retirement.
The Piettes raised their family on Emily Street, off Falconbridge Road. Their son, Roger, is retired from Inco, and stepfather of two boys, who are married with children of their own. Their daughter, Kristine, has been employed at Extendicare Falconbridge for nine years. Sadly, the Piettes’ middle child, Joanne, passed away from brain cancer in 2011. One of Joanne’s two sons has two children. Everyone keeps Piette, now a grandmother and great grandmother, very happy and very busy.
In 1970, Piette and her husband joined the Frood Road branch of the Loyal Order of Moose, an international service organization helping children in need. Madeleine became a senior regent of the local group’s women’s league.
“We made lifelong friends during the 20 years we were members.”
Their children, Roger and Joanne, later became active in the Moose as well.
“Our three kids were always there to help other kids in the neighbourhood. Claude and I were so proud of them for being benevolent from such a young age and now, as adults, inspiring kindness in their own children and grandchildren.”
After her husband’s passing in 2001, Piette took on more volunteer work to stay active and think positively. For many years, she volunteered with the Canadian Cancer Society, driving cancer patients to medical appointments and treatment programs.
“I regularly drove one particular couple for years,” she said. “Even though I had to give up volunteer driving, we’ve remained close friends.”
Piette also joined the Centre de Santé on Frood Road, an organization that offers primary-care services, physical activities and health-related presentations to Greater Sudbury’s French-speaking population. Piette benefited greatly from their Thai Chi program, so much so that she decided to become qualified to teach this quiet form of exercise. She conducted classes for the next four years. “It was a lot of fun helping fellow seniors de-stress and strengthen their physical balance.”
Piette’s work at Maison McCulloch Hospice has been most rewarding. When her daughter Joanne was in hospice care, Madeleine came to know the many compassionate professionals and volunteers dedicated to providing the best-possible care and comfort to palliative patients and their caregivers.
“Getting to know the patients and their families was a privilege and I wanted to contribute my own time to support others in the same way that Joanne and our family were lovingly supported,” Piette said.
In April 2019, Piette was awarded the June Callwood Award Circle of Outstanding Volunteers in recognition of her volunteer efforts at the hospice.
The COVID-19 health pandemic has kept Piette away from her volunteer job at Maison McCulloch Hospice, and she misses everyone terribly.
“I’m keeping the faith that we can all return soon. The hospice is such a welcoming place. The privilege of being a volunteer there just gives you a good feeling inside. We all feel like part of a close-knit family. I miss the hugs and smiles that are part of our day.”
Madeleine Piette’s Volunteer Words of Wisdom
Joining philanthropic organizations and contributing your time as a volunteer is a chance to do good for others. Their community initiatives and social activities bring members together. You make strong friendships because you share a common goal, and it gives you a sense of satisfaction knowing you are making a difference in someone’s life. If you are shy and introverted, as I was in my youth, working with others brings you out of your shell, teaches you to read people better and that builds self-confidence. It helped me tremendously in my life.
Marlene Holkko Moore is a local communications professional and occasional contributor to Sudbury.com.