Gillis, Carmella Irene "Cammy", age 83, of Antigonish and formerly of North Sydney, passed away on January 30, 2024, at home.
Born in Glace Bay in 1940, she was a daughter of the late Murdoch and Ida (Ward) Matheson.
Cammy was the 6th of 17 children and the proud daughter of a Cape Breton coal miner. She witnessed both parents work hard their whole lives; this work ethic was imprinted on her and passed on to her family. Upon relocating to North Sydney, she met Barry and married in 1967. They went on to build a family and were very involved in church and community life. Coming from a large family herself, Cammy easily and happily embraced the ‘North Sydney Gillises’ and became one of their own. Her in-laws became her dear friends, and she steadfastly maintained those connections to her last day. Barry’s siblings, spouses, and their families held a special place in her heart, especially John and Rosaire Young.
Along with Barry, she was a long-time Cub and Scout leader, and she made positive contributions to many of the youth in North Sydney. As her children grew, there were countless hockey, baseball, basketball, and soccer games, sailing regattas, piano and highland dance competitions, and pipe band contests. She was able to travel to Scotland with the Gaelic College Pipe Band when they won the World Championships in 1994, and her fundraising efforts paved part of the way to get them there.
Cammy treated everyone the same, no matter their station in life. Before the idea of ‘inclusion’ was recognized as a human right, Cammy led the way in North Sydney working with adults in this cherished community. She had a special way of communicating with people and ensuring they knew they were valued.
She was a model for healthy living despite her often-daily struggle with kidney disease. Sean gifted her with a ‘beautiful’ kidney in 2006, and this greatly improved her quality of life and gave us more years with her. We are indebted to him for this.
Cammy was a devout Catholic and a long-time parishioner of St. Joseph's Church in North Sydney where she participated in many ministries. Her later years saw her delivering the Eucharist to shut-ins as well as enjoying a deep involvement with the Catholic Women’s League. Here she found the perfect blend of faith and friendship, and she treasured these days.
Relocating to Antigonish in 2020 to be closer to family, she and Barry developed new friendships and were able to enjoy more time with their children and grandchildren. Although she missed her Cape Breton friends, family, and her church, her final years were full and happy and for this we are forever grateful. Special thanks to Sean, Carla, and Grace ("Gracie Lou") for easing this transition.
She would say her greatest accomplishment was her family. Both she and Barry modeled faith, morality, hard work, the importance of helping others, and contributing to the community. Cammy also loved sports and politics and would talk about them to anyone who would listen. She was a colorful commentator while watching sports, and was a loyal follower of the NDP, having witnessed the struggles of miners in her formative years. Her children grew up hearing about the importance of service and as a result, all are employed in public service professions. She was very proud of this.
She followed the achievements of her children and grandchildren closely and was sure to call family and friends with news, which she called her ‘press releases’. Her brother, and dear friend, Blair, gave her the nickname ‘TeleCarmella’, and how funny and accurate that was. She kept Canada Post in business with cards as she wanted everyone in her family to be celebrated. Her sense of humor was legendary, and how fortunate we are to inherit it. Her last moments involved cleaning; how she would have loved that!
She was a tireless worker, supported many causes and took care of countless people. Her unique blend of compassion and practicality brought comfort to many in their final days.
She is survived by her loving and devoted husband of 57 years, Barry; children, Barry (Lisa),, Middle Sackville; Sean (Carla), Antigonish; Thea (Mark) Campbell, Yellowknife, NT. As well, her dear grandchildren Chad (Rachel), Mary (Connor), Grace, Nate, Alli, Seanie and Mairin. More recently, she was delighted with updates on her great- grandchildren, Nora and Elise. She shared a close bond with Lisa, Carla, and Mark and was very happy her kids found wonderful partners. Her family was her purpose in life, and we will miss Ma and Grandmother terribly.
Cammy is also survived by and will be deeply mourned by sisters, Dolores Young, Ethel Tennant, Bernadette (Bill) Dixon, Ida (Ron) Winstanley, Bev Matheson, and Maria (Jimmy) Tutty. Also, her brothers, Wayne (Josie) Matheson, Bernie (Lois) Matheson, Blair (Germaine) Matheson, and Reeves (Valerie) Matheson. ‘Carmella’ had a special relationship with every sibling and loved them with all her heart.
She will be deeply missed by Barry’s surviving family: Rosaire (John) Young, Ron (Nita) Gillis, Bernadette MacDougall, and Jeannie (Urs) Schweizer.
Also left to share fond memories are countless nieces and nephews, especially Cathy Balah with whom Cammy shared a special friendship.
She will be happily reunited with her parents Murdoch and Ida Matheson; cousin, Eugenie Matheson; brothers, Gerald, Paul, Owen, Sonny, Jimmy, and Mick Matheson. Also, her Matheson in-laws Yvonne Matheson, Judy Matheson, John Young, and John Tennant.
Also waiting for her are Barry’s family, Martin and Nora Gillis, Wilma and Lloyd Balah, Florence and Allan Gillis, Regina, Mary and Father Joe Gillis and, brothers-in-law, Charlie MacDougall, Leroy MacDonald, and Allan Gillis.
Many treasured extended family and friends have gone before her who we know are enjoying her company once again.
Special thanks to Shirley MacPherson and Monica Sullivan, her ‘Antigonish Friends’ who became treasures to Cammy. To the Antigonish RCMP and Emergency Services, thank you for your compassion and professionalism.
A celebration of Cammy’s life will be held in North Sydney at a later date.
In Memoriam, donations to the North Sydney Food Bank would be appreciated. Barry was a longtime volunteer.
Arrangements are under the direction of C.L. Curry Funeral Home, Antigonish and W.J. Dooley Funeral Home, North Sydney. Online condolences can be left at clcurry.com.
In my Mother’s hand, mine looks small and weak for I am new to this world.
Yet with my hand in hers I feel no fear. Her hand was always there as I grew,
Either to comfort me or to teach me, depending on what I needed.
Now I am a parent and she is a grandmother. When I see my children’s hands in hers
I feel no fear. Life has gone full circle now. As she is small and weak and I am strong. I
sit beside her scared of what the future may hold. But when I look down, it is my hand
that is small in hers. And, I feel no fear and know I never will,
for my hand will forever be
In my Mother’s hand.