EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an updated version of an article originally printed in the July 29, 2020 edition of the Guysborough Journal
Among the qualities people ascribe effortlessly to Jaqueline Dort – Deputy Warden of the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s who passed away peacefully on Tuesday, July 21 – indispensable tops the list.
“If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have anything in our little community,” says her long-time friend and fellow volunteer Teresa Grover of Goshen, one of the rural communities Jackie represented on council for 19 years. “We don’t have much, but anything we do have, she fought for it.”
That sentiment now echoes from all corners of the district and across the county. From her work on the Eastern Region Solid Waste Management Committee and her coordination of local Community Access Program (CAP) sites to her work on the boards of the Goshen Community Center and the Goshen Volunteer Fire Dept., along with other acts of volunteerism and good works, Jackie’s legacy of commitment and determination resonates as a gold standard of public service.
“She was dedicated, honest and incredibly hard-working,” says St. Mary’s Warden Michael Mosher. “She understood everybody’s viewpoint. At the same time, she was very conscientious, very budget conscious.”
Chief Administrative Officer Marvin MacDonald concurs. “When she took on a project, she saw it all the way through. She carefully determined why something could proceed, or why it couldn’t.”
Says Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie MLA Lloyd Hines, who knew her well, “She was very effective in representing her communities – always level-headed and sensible. She didn’t point fingers, which is a great commodity in a politician.”
In fact, “she was a very caring person,” says Rickey Grover, chairperson of the Goshen Community Centre. She cared about the community and fought very hard for anything it needed. People could call her for anything. And they did.”
Teresa Grover (no direct relation to Rickey) remembers her raw enthusiasm for helping people. “She once tutored a girl, who was having trouble at school, for free,” she says. “She’d go down to a CAP site somewhere with lunches and cookies that she’d made. If you called her with a question, she’d get an answer for you. It didn’t matter who it was. It didn’t matter where they lived. She was always doing things like that.”
Born in Sherbrooke and raised in Port Bickerton, Jackie moved to Goshen after her marriage to Clarence Dort. A hairdresser for years, she entered municipal politics after winning a byelection in 2001 to represent St. Mary’s District 6. She threw herself into the nitty-gritty of local government almost immediately.
“Before my time, she sat on the region’s solid waste committee,” Mosher says. She took that on as a priority and was the vice-chair when everyone was going to recycling and blue bagging. She was a leader in that.”
She was also an early advocate of communications technology. “She really was great to have on council when it came to email and things like that,” Mosher adds. “All that was coming on strong in the early 2000s, and she was definitely the go-to person.”
All of which suited her for the federal government’s CAP – designed to provide affordable access to the internet for people in rural parts of Canada – which she helped administer in the area. “Jackie liked that,” Teresa Grover says. “She also liked helping people with their income taxes. She was good at math.”
Jackie found her stride working on behalf of Goshen’s community centre and fire brigade. As a board member of both, she represented their interests doggedly at municipal council and beyond.
“Back in October 2015, we had all this heavy flooding at the centre,” Rickey Grover says. “We had just renovated it two years earlier. But the flood destroyed our new basement, and a couple of walls, and our insurance wouldn’t cover it. So, Jackie fought it out with the (provincial) government for about two years. I remember Lloyd Hines kept telling her, ‘We’ll get you the money, we’ll get you the money’. Of course, she didn’t stop until she actually got (the) money.”
Says Hines, “Oh yes, Jackie and I worked together on that. She understood that people are people and it was important to be patient. In the end, we were very successful. Matter of fact, we managed to get two (provincial) contributions.”
Jackie’s interest in the local fire department – piqued by the fact that her husband Clarence was a member and, for years, the chief – was just as acute. Says current Chief Bruce Sinclair, “One of the last initiatives that she was pushing for was to get us more detailed mapping of the area. When we get an emergency call, having a map to tell us exactly where we’re going is a good visual aid. We don’t have the best cell phone service in this area.”
Adds Sinclair, “Jackie also worked with us when we applied for emergency service provider funds from the province. I talked to her just a few months ago, and though she wasn’t able to help with that this year, I used all the templates she created for the (application). I was able to tell her that we just got another (round of) funding.”
Says Rickey Grover, “The last time I saw Jackie was in February. She was in good cheer. She never forgot to be caring about people. Even then, when she was in bed, she said to me, ‘Rickey there’s a cheque out on the counter for the community center’. She never stopped looking after what was important to her.”
Jackie is survived by her husband, Clarence; son, Robert; daughter, Melissa; mother, Lorna Hiltz; grandson, Kory; sister, Ellen (James) Harpell; mother-in-law, Mildred Cameron; many brothers-in-law; sisters-in-law; nieces; nephews and their families.