Valley Lives - Mona Monette

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the February 26, 2020 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Mourning Mona

Former Brennan's Hill Hotel owner and community mainstay dies at 94

By Hunter Cresswell

Mona Monette's spirit of smiling in the face of great loss was present during her wake in Brennan's Hill last week.

The Brennan's Hill Hotel was packed on Feb. 20. Monette's body lay serene in her open casket, which was flanked by a crown of bouquets as people swapped old stories about her in the very bar she used to own with her late-husband François Monette.

Mona Monette
François and Mona Monette at their wedding in 1947. Photo courtesy Jamie Monette.

Everyone in Brennan's Hill knew Mona - pronounced M-ah-na. She was a grandmother, mother, mentor, and friend to everyone who passed through the Low community or stopped for a pint at the village watering hole. She died surrounded by family on Feb. 17, four days before her 95th birthday.

Monette knew great loss during her life. Her husband died while getting heart surgery in his 40s, their eldest son, his wife, and their son died in a car crash, and she outlived other children and siblings.

"She had a lot of sorrow in her life from losing family members, we don't need to elaborate, and yet she kept her head up," Monette's niece Irma Peck said.

She always upheld a cheery disposition, love of people, and ever-present smile while still running the hotel and attending all the parties despite her loss.

"Where there was fun, Mona was there," Peck said. "No matter where you met Mona, she always had a smile."

She was a very active member of the Low community. She always helped out with the Canada Day parade, was active with the Low Senior's Club, Heritage Hall, Low Arena, and Lion's Club, and if there was a party or social event, she was there and odds are that she was one of the last to leave.

Mona Monette
Low resident and community mainstay Mona Monette died surrounded by her family on Feb. 17. Photo courtesy Jamie Monette.

"It's going to be more of a party here later, that's what she would've wanted," Brent Daly, who worked for Monette at the bar, said as he looked around the crowded lounge during the wake.

Monette was fond of costumes and dressing up. Every Halloween she wore a different costume and she always helped make outfits for the Canada Day parades.

Peck remembers putting on fancy dresses and hats to go to the Buskers Festival in Ottawa one year with Monette to "play tourists." The two spent the day wandering around downtown before running into someone from Low.

"Just before the sun came down we met someone from up here and they looked at us like, 'What are you doing here?'" Peck said, laughing. "We got away with it the whole day, but we got caught right at the end."

She ran a tight ship at the bar. Her grandson Jamie Monette said she would let people who drank too much to drive stay in one of the hotel rooms, in her spare bedroom at her house next door, or on a couch in her big living room.

"There were very few people up the Gatineau who didn't have a chapter of their lives with Mona at the hotel," Jamie said, quoting from what CBC's "On the Road Again" host Wayne Rostad said at Monette's funeral.

Jamie's older brother Jeremy Monette said he and his friends would often stay at her place after a night of drinking at the bar. In all of the time Jeremy spent at the bar, either as a kid helping out, bartending, or drinking there when he was older, he only ever saw two fights break out.

"She pretty much kept everybody in line," he said. "They didn't want to risk getting barred from the local establishment because that's where everybody went."

Jeremy said Monette helped a Low man quit drinking cold turkey. She gave him a room upstairs and Jeremy gave him a job on his farm.

"She was like a mother figure to everybody up there," Jeremy said.

That's the kind of person Monette was and it's obvious from the crowd at her wake that she's dearly missed.

"I feel a big hole in my heart, but I'm filling it with good memories of her," Peck said.

Those who missed the wake and funeral last week can still lift a rye and 7up - Monette's go-to drink, Crown Royal in a glass separate from the 7up in a can - in her honour.

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