Valley Lives - Sue Graham

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 01, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Local librarian remembered as community leader

By Ben Bulmer

Sue Graham was a private and reserved librarian who adored solitude and reading - she also had a passion for performance cars and drove an Audi. She was, in many ways, a paradox: a strong, communityminded person who took on leadership roles and guided others with her practical knowledge and pragmatic approach. But while leadership is often considered the forte of the extroverted, Graham was the opposite, leading instead with a strong sense of duty.

Sue Graham
Sue Graham in her kayak on Lac Notre-Dame, where she lived since 1979. Photos courtesy Pierre Ritchie.

"The two pillars of her life were family and community," said Graham's husband Pierre Ritchie. "[Graham] had a very strong sense of duty and responsibility... she had a strong sense that you give back, and so that's what she did in the community."

Born in 1946, Graham grew up in the Montreal suburb of Westmount until the age of 12, when her father died. Following her father's death, her mother took the family "up north," as they called it, and settled on the shores of Lac Raymond in the Laurentians. Graham's grandfather had divided land he purchased around the lake between his nine children and Graham's home soon became the central point for her 46 extended cousins, who lived around the lake. With a sister born the year her father had passed away, Graham became the matriarchal figure - not just to her new sister, but to the entire household. "She really was the anchor point in the family," said Ritchie. He jokes that when the couple met, it was like dating a "widow or a divorced woman with a family," as Graham always had children in tow.

The couple married when Ritchie was 21 and Graham 23 and they headed to North Carolina where they stayed for five years while Ritchie finished his studies. The couple bought a soft-top Alpha Romeo and took the car on endless trips around the US, their long hair following in the wind. They discovered North Carolina's isolated Hatteras Island during that period, and returned there almost every year for 46 years until her health prevented her from travelling. "It was very important to her that we retain those roots," said Ritchie.

Sue Graham
Graham at a viewpoint along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Photos courtesy Pierre Ritchie.

Leaving the US, the couple headed to South-western Ontario before arriving in the Gatineau Hills and settling in Lac Notre-Dame 38 years ago. The couple had two children and Graham became an active member of the community, becoming the president of the Peggy Brewin Cooperative Preschool and taking on lead roles with the Beavers and Cubs.

Graham was well known for her involvement in the Wakefield Library. "I used to call her our fearless leader," said fellow librarian and Wakefielder Ruth Salmon. "Over the years, we went from some book shelves in the fire hall and meetings around a plywood-covered pool table to taking over the whole fire station as our own dedicated space." This was, in part, due to Graham's commitment and dedication, said Salmon. "She was someone who could hold the reigns, and everyone was happy that she had the reigns. She would do it very gently and with humour."

Glennis Cohen volunteered alongside the two and described Graham as "the glue that held the library together for many years." Cohen said although their friendship didn't extend outside of the library, when Cohen's son died in Australia in 2001, "she was the first person to come to our house when that happened. That's the sort of person she was," said Cohen.

The first in to jump in the lake in the spring and the last to jump in in the fall, Graham was passionate about the outdoors and loved walking, swimming, and skiing, said Ritchie. The consequence of various health problems slowed her down, he said, but they didn't stop her. "She used to get these custom boots made for her because they had to be different sizes for right and left," said Ritchie, adding she was still an elegant skier.

Ritchie described Graham as "absolutely loyal, discreet, responsible, and in her own quiet way, very loving."

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