May 14, 2018
By James Oloo
Former co-workers continue to remember retired Gabriel Dumont Institute employee Cecile O’Neil, who passed away this month at the age of 72 years. The celebration of Cecile’s life was held on April 9, 2018 in Big River, Saskatchewan.
Tammy Cummins, Employment Counsellor at the Gabriel Dumont Institute Training and Employment in Prince Albert, said, “Cecile was a mentor. I looked up to her. She inspired us to be passionate about our work at the Prince Albert Office.” Cecile was the first Program Coordinator of the Gabriel Dumont Institute Training & Employment in Prince Albert. “Many of the earliest employees at the Prince Albert Centre were hired by Cecile. She had a saying that, “You give it 100% and after you reach the top, you can do some more. These [Gabriel Dumont Institute Training & Employment clients] are our people.”
“Cecile reminded me of my Grandma,” said Robbie Walliser, the Gabriel Dumont Institute Benefits Administrator. “Cecile came across as a strong woman, but she had a big soft heart. She genuinely cared for people. Cecile was a good woman, a loyal friend, and colleague, who always had a smile, a joke, and an encouraging word.”
Sylvia Moss, Employment Service Manager at Gabriel Dumont Institute Training and Employment, also shared her memories of Cecile. “We were out for lunch with two other staff members, when I knocked over a very tall glass of water and ice. Instinct took over immediately as I pushed it all away from me and directly onto Cecile’s lap!! There was a lot of laughter and for me embarrassment. Cecile never let me forget what a horrible first impression I had made!”
“Cecile was a great lady. She was strong, funny, tenacious, kind, stubborn, a good listener, and at the core, she had a heart that was always in the right place,” Sylvia stated. “Cecile had a huge heart for the Métis people and communities in which she lived and served, and she was a good example of how to lead with confidence. I always admired her ability to build solid partnerships for GDI, her work with industry and community partners are still viable today. Cecile was quick with a smile, and her laugh was infectious.” Sylvia continued, “I know so many of us will never forget her, she impacted us all in so many ways. My heart goes out to her entire family.”
Cecile joined the Institute in 1998 as an Employment Counselor at the Dumont Technical Institute Centre in La Loche. She later served in the same capacity in Duck Lake, North Battleford, and Prince Albert.
At the time of her retirement in December 2012, Cecile had served as Partnership Coordinator, Program Coordinator, and Acting Director of GDI Training and Employment.
On her last day at Gabriel Dumont Institute, Cecile stated that “It has been an honour to witness the success and achievement of many students and clients and it is such a phenomenal experience. I like to believe that my role at GDI has made a positive impact on many students and clients as evidenced by many a positive contact I have maintained with students over the years.”