61 Pleasant St | Antigonish, NS B2G 1W6
Obituary of Conrad Poirier
With heavy hearts, we share that (Joseph Anthony) Conrad Poirier passed peacefully on December 17, 2023, in the RK MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish.
Conrad was born in West Arichat on June 30, 1938. He used to joke that his birthday was more important than Canada’s since it was the day before. But that came from his good humour, not from any sense of self-importance. Conrad grew up in a humble home with the guidance of his father Wilfred and mother Lorraine. With his sisters Doreen and Geraldine and his brothers Donald and Alfred, he learned the value of discipline and hard work as well as infusing life with joy and laughter.
Conrad was a lifelong learner. After completing his public school studies, he pursued a Bachelor of Arts at Université Sainte-Anne followed by a Bachelor of Education at St. Francis Xavier University. Early in his teaching career, he received his Master of Education degree from Université de Moncton. He taught junior high French for 32 years. And he continued to teach himself, turning mostly to books for anything he wanted to do – build a house, plant a garden, build boats, take professional photos and much more.
His teaching career brought him to Rosemary, the love of his life. In 1961, they met in their first teaching jobs in Port Hawkesbury. Soon they were going for drives on weekends, Conrad taking the turns just fast enough to make Rosemary slide across the front seat and into his outstretched arm. Together, they ventured north to teach for a year in Fort Simpson. There, drawing on his devotion to Christ, he proposed by asking, “If the Little King permits, will you be my wife?”
They returned home to marry in August 1965 and began their life together teaching in Dartmouth before settling in Antigonish to raise a family. They’d only just finished building the house enough to live in it, using a sawhorse as a dining table, when Blair arrived on the scene. Conrad secretly got all the carpet laid before Rosemary brought their wee bundle home from the hospital. She was so surprised, she almost dropped him. Adèle-Marie arrived eighteen months later and Joel brought up the rear three years after that. With these roots firmly planted, Antigonish became home.
Conrad joked that it was a promotion when he moved from (then) Prince Andrew High in Dartmouth to Saint Andrew Junior High in Antigonish. But much of his career was a challenge. He was known as a tough teacher but only because he was tasked with students who had little enthusiasm for academic learning. He sometimes came home with a hoarse voice. But he kept his humour. The kids didn’t realize he knew that they secretly called him Gargamel, the villain from the Smurfs, until he arrived on Halloween one year wearing a T-shirt that read, “I hate Smurfs!”
Later in his career, Conrad was thrilled to be given classes of high achieving students who truly wanted to learn. In 1993, he retired from teaching on this high note, and as head of the French Department, when another passion presented an opportunity.
Photography had intrigued Conrad since he was a small boy. One day, his mother tried on her wedding dress and was tickled that it still fit so she put a Brownie camera in Conrad’s hands and showed him how to take a photo. Months later when the developed photos arrived, she was ecstatic to have that photo. And Conrad was hooked. He made pinhole cameras and bought his own equipment as soon as he could. He always had a camera at the ready. Over the years, he consulted books, took courses and picked up tips by dropping in at a local gallery.
One day, the gallery owner realized he’d double booked himself for weddings and asked if Conrad would shoot one of them. He did, and Poirier Photo was born. Through this second career, Conrad shot more weddings, portraits and events than you can shake a stick at. He did contract work for Communications Nova Scotia, becoming a dependable supplier in the area. And of course, he captured loads of our own family moments, from the cherished to the silly and everything in between.
Sailing was another of Conrad’s passions. His father worked on tugboats and he learned to sail at an early age. But that joy lay dormant for many of his adult years until he had a chance to revive it. First, he refurbished a small second-hand sailboat that fit in the pool with just a couple of inches to spare when he tested it for water tightness. He then built a similar vessel from scratch. Then came the Allégresse, an AY23 wing keel. A local boat builder made the fiberglass hull and Conrad finished the rest with heaven knows how many hours of work and orders of supplies from MMOS in Halifax. Rosemary did the final touches, sewing seat cushions and curtains. And the family set sail for all kinds of adventures. Conrad was so proud of Blair for learning to sail her by himself and of Joel for finding and rescuing her after new owners abandoned her.
Conrad’s passions were not only for his own joy. His whole life, he was very much a community builder. He served on school committees, the school board, parish council and Knights of Columbus. He canvassed for the Canadian Cancer Society and Saint Vincent de Paul Society. He was a co-founder of the Highland Curling Club and was active with the Antigonish Yacht Club. In 2005, he received the Nova Scotia Volunteer of the Year Award for Antigonish. For many years, he chaired the Pictou-Antigonish Library Board and was the driving force that got the People’s Place Library established on Main Street. He served on the board of a microcredit that helped women in developing countries become self-sufficient. He also spent many years on the board of the RK MacDonald Nursing Home, supporting a facility for those who need it and, in the end, receiving their professional and compassionate care himself.
If you asked him what he was most proud of and if dementia hadn’t robbed him of the ability to answer, he would tell you that his family was his greatest achievement. His love for Rosemary and his children knew no bounds. From teaching his young kids so much and showing them that men cook, clean and do laundry; to roaming with Rosemary wherever the Cape Breton fiddle music was best; to taking a keen interest in his adult children’s work, lives and fur babies – he loved us dearly.
He suffered great losses – his brother Donald, his son Blair and his nephews Dennis and Darren, all gone far too young. He also grieved the passing of his parents and his sister Doreen. But he would tell you that he lived a good life, full of love. When all else faded, we could see in his clear blue eyes that he knew and loved us to the end, and that he was ready to go.
In his own words that he kindly left us along with his wishes: “I know that it is human to shed a tear when a loved one passes away. But I ask that you think beyond this moment to the assurance that God, in his infinite mercy, has called me to a better place where there is no more sadness or pain. I ask you to celebrate and remember the fun times.”
We invite you to join us in a celebration of his life and the fun times. A Catholic funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, December 21 in St. Ninian’s Cathedral, followed by a reception in the parish centre. In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, Feed Nova Scotia or Shelter Nova Scotia.
61 Pleasant St
Antigonish, NS B2G 1W6
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