How nice to celebrate a good friend! I met Brenda O’Farrell in my first year of journalism in 1983 at Concordia University. She was 19. I was 25. She was an early bloomer and I was a late one. We’ve remained fast friends ever since, although there have been some gaps in contact. As in many long-running, special friendships, we always seamlessly pick up from where we left off.
Last weekend, the town of Hudson honored her as the Irish Woman of the Year, which Doug and I happily attended. It was the 10th anniversary of the award and the first time for a woman. She was delighted and the 180-some people who gathered to celebrate her accomplishments were obviously thrilled.
The toasts! The tributes! The fun that was had! Green filled the room. Ties, scarves and outfits. Even green sparkles, which you don’t often see. Lots of jokes, laughter and smiling faces.
Marilyne Picard, MNA (Soulanges) marked the occasion with a surprise bronze medallion from the Assemblée Nationale du Québec, no less.
I swear every time Brenda’s name was mentioned, everyone’s face just beamed. That’s the word, folks: beamed, from the Oxford Dictionary: A ray or shaft of light. A radiant or good-natured look or smile.
So much goodness, happiness, generosity floating in the air. It was truly a lovely sight to behold and breath in.
“Bren”, as I like to call her, started her own company, Ballyporeen Media Inc., two years ago after a she got a buy-out from the Montreal Gazette. Her Gazette career included various positions: national news editor, Sunday editor, and special projects editor.
She was also editor of the West Island Gazette and Off-Island Gazette and is credited with leading a reporting team that launched two of Postmedia’s most successful hyper-local news websites.
She’s now also executive director of the Quebec Farmers’ Association.
She said she found the honor “humbling” and hadn’t seen it coming. Of course she hadn’t.
After all, what had she done for the community? Well, it turns out, quite a bit. But always low-key. No agenda, no plan, no design. No calling attention to herself. No airs.
Just Brenda being Brenda, who—surprise— couldn’t accept the Irishwoman of the Year award without giving something back. She’s established a $1,000 annual scholarship, which her company will fund for the next 10 years, for a female student of Irish heritage at John Abbott College to have an adventure. Whatever adventure she wants.
The name of the scholarship? The O’Farrell Wondrous Adventure Scholarship.
I thought about ending my own tribute to Brenda with a little tease about not letting it all go to her head.
But the reality is, she couldn’t if she tried to. That’s my Brenda.
How lucky am I to be counted as her friend?