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while i was deeply saddened discovering this site, i was also very moved to read what so many students have shared here.

mrs. mackey, (call me helen, she said sometime later) beloved teacher and friend, embodied, in what was otherwise a constrictingly regimented circumstance, the possibility of possibility. i remember the elation of being in her class. just mixing the poster paints seemed thrilling (i can recall their distinctive smell, the smell of the art room). i have a vivid memory of her drawing our attention to the unusual green of a late winter dusky sky one evening, when we had stayed late after school. her assignments were always imaginative and challenging and her responses, so true. i remember the profound experience of disappearing one time, in the sense of concentrating so intensely that i returned, brush in hand, to find my painting complete.

i was so glad to be able to write to her in the early 90's, to tell her that i had become an artist. her encouragement, and the quality of her sensitive, sensible, steadfast guidance showed me the way.

she took no guff and suffered no fools.

this work attached is in her honour. called Colossus, it is deeply and distantly related to Goya's work of the same name.
It has been more than 2 years since my Aunt Helen passed away. At long last I am posting my eulogy to her as well as some oft-requested photos:

"My Aunt Helen was a very strong and independent woman and, it was no wonder. She was the first born of Mary Bryerton, a young lady who at the turn of the century decided to leave her Montreal family of 16 siblings and venture on her own to a clerical job in the remote railway town of Cochrane in northern Ontario. There she met and married Ernie Poole, a strapping young homesteader, who worked as a guide and forestry man for the CNR. Ernie gave Mary a canoe for a wedding present. She used it to paddle to work everyday. Helen inherited their adventurous spirit, willful drive and strength of character. Her father, she said, was her hero.

One of three sisters, all very different and each remarkable in her own way, she lost her beloved brother, Ted, during the Second World War. She lost her youngest sister, Mary, recently, to her great sadness. The sisters, often separated by distance (and sometimes opinions) were nonetheless ever-present through the triumphs and tragedies that are inevitable in life. Betty and Mary shared the watch during the long illness and subsequent passing of Donald Mackey, Helen's husband and one true love. In turn, Helen was often at their side in times of illness and crisis and has maintained a strong, generous, and caring interest in her nieces and nephews and their families.

One of my favourite memories of Helen and her two sisters was at Christmas at my brother's home about ten years ago. I had brought along scores of those long bendable balloons that could be shaped into animals and such. Their instructions were to make outrageous hats. The whole family absolutely relished the task, but the balloons in Helen's huge and preposterous hat kept popping, reducing her, and us, to absolute, all-out, gut-wrenching laughter!

Helen and I were both teachers. Inevitably we spent hours discussing educational issues. We both deplored many of the trends now popular in the educational system. Having read the comments posted online from appreciative and adoring former students, I'm convinced she could only be correct in her assertions.

We talked of many things; the world, politics, having children and not having children. She had wanted to have a child, but never wallowed in the regret that she didn't. She was never one to indulge in self-pity. And, we didn't always agree in our views. But she was great; she never held a grudge if you didn't agree with her. Why would she? She never lost an argument. She refused to lose an argument and that was that! Then, it was swiftly back to more congenial conversation.

Though I, too, shared her love of art and music, I never possessed her drive and talent for such. I probably disappointed her in not sharing her passion for Shakespeare. She was generous in taking my friend, George, and I to Stratford a few years ago, but knowing me well, she booked tickets for musicals rather than drama. She was always good company. We had a great time together, enjoying West Side Storey, watching the swans attack a raccoon by the lake, enjoying a picnic at a 401 rest stop on the trip home.

I learned from her the skill of being a good houseguest: be helpful but not overbearing, enjoy your time together, but give your host and yourself space and time out; bring something to amuse yourself; bring books, lots of books, and organize your luggage! Helen finessed the guest thing.

She loved to travel and to experience life, but she could just as easily derive enjoyment vicariously through reading. Most times when I telephoned her she was curled up with a novel. Her personal library is immense and I believe she ordered books by the truckload from the Westmount library. I share her love of reading and only recently discovered to my delight we were both fans of crime novels, even some of the same writers; her guilty pleasure as one of her close friends described it. I believe that she was delighted when, as a child, I showed an early aptitude and ability for reading. She and my parents encouraged that by providing me with lots of books. I recall Helen and Donald giving me their copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe whilst I was in Grade Two. I quickly devoured the series. It is because of that gift that I still insist on having a tall lamppost topped with a beautiful antique lamp in my front garden.

Helen was a zealous monarchist. She had me reading the London Illustrated News as soon as I could read. I was immediately put on royalty watch. Easy enough for a child who loved gems and sparkling attire and who wished for the Tooth Fairy to leave not a few coins but rather a glittering royal tiara under the pillow. However I did grow up, and I can recall, as a slightly rebellious teenager, making an offhand comment to Helen about Queen Elizabeth. Retribution was swift; I was quickly informed and reformed of my errant opinions. Her respect for the monarchy persisted through life. Only recently, my young nephew, made a similar, obviously mis-informed, comment about the modern role of the monarchy. Helen, tight-lipped, rose to the defense of the Palace. She was not amused.

I will always remember Helen for her colours. I will recall the muted softness of her watercolours and photography, the gentle and cheerful spring colours of her wardrobe, the warm woods and soft chintz of the cottage she had painted and arranged and shared with my grandparents. I spent a lot of time there as a little girl, mostly with my grandparents, but quite often Helen and Donald were there. I remember the walks in the wood, gathering flowers, searching out the butternut trees, and swimming in the lake with Auntie Lala as I called her. I still admire and try to emulate in my own way that simplicity and elegance that always defined her person and her life.

I'll close with a poem that I wrote in 1958. I've forgotten the circumstances under which I wrote it; in reality I'd forgotten it entirely until I discovered it in her closet a few days ago. She'd kept it for over fifty years, and luckily it had survived her recent purges of her belongings. The poem, strangely enough, says a lot about what many of us are feeling today. It's called:

The Dove

When I was in the valley
And the sun was high above
I was sitting down upon a bench.
All at once I saw a dove.

I loved her and loved her
And said she was mine,
But before I could catch her
She flew to the east coast line

I wished she'd come back,
And with me she'd stay,
But I thought that again
She would someday fly away.

I pray, Auntie Lala, that you have flown to the ones you love and miss."
Helen Mackey was a member of The Women's Canadian Club of Montreal.
After reading all these wonderful testimonials I wish I had known her...She sounds like a very special jewel and to think she was a member of my club and I could have met her...Damn...There are probably many members of the WCCM that have led wonderful lives and we will only hear of them when they pass...Such a shame!

Susan Dempsey
Membership Chairman
The Womens Canadian Club of Montreal.
The Outremont High School reunion has brought back a lot of memories. After hearing the eulogy and reading what others have written, my own recollections have been sharpened. I took Art as an extra subject and also attended the lunch hour painting classroom sessions. I remember feeling happy and content to be there. Mrs Mackey was always welcoming and encouraged us to express ourselves in our works . I was not a great art student but she taught me to love art. She transmitted her knowledge of painting but most of all her Love of Art and the different types of painting and artists. I truly thank her for that. She instilled in me this love which I have always cherished. Whenever I go anywhere, I try to go to Art museums. I feel happy and content in an art museum .
I did not keep in touch with Mrs Mackey .However I certainly do appreciate all that she taught me and how she encouraged me to see things.
When I was at Outremont High School, Helen Mackey's art class was my favorite place. In that room time seemed to stretch out the way it does when you are fully absorbed in what you are doing. Mrs. Mackey created the quiet space and provided the experiences that fueled my creativity.

On the weekend of our 50th high school reunion in May I had the opportunity to look through two portfolios of student work that Helen had kept for all those years. Of course I was hoping I would find some work that I had done. I found two paintings and a drawing, each one of which awoke memories of the pleasures of those classes - I could almost smell the paint - and I clearly remembered working on those paintings.

These pieces of my student artwork done 50 years ago are Helen's last gift to me. I haven't done very much in the way of visual art for a long time but I can almost hear her saying, "Go ahead, start again, it's not too late."

On a final note, I did teach art to 11 and 12 year olds for several years and I too have kept a portfolio of student work, pictures too beautiful to discard. I have sometimes felt guilty for keeping these pieces but now understand that, like Helen, I am just taking care of them for a while.
mrs. mackey saved my life... i think i would have offed myself if it weren't for her. because of mrs. mackey, i got into l'ecole des beaux-arts and became... what she felt i would become. heh... i did call her once, in the 80's, just to tell her that, and to thank her. she said she knew, that i had been so angry it was eating me up. yes, mrs mackey was indeed that rare creature, the fine and consumate teacher who changes lives.
EULOGY ( Written By Eileen Thalenberg)

When Helen Mackey died, e-mails among a group of us began to fly about the internet. Who is going to speak for us Outremont High School girls, someone asked.? How is it that after 50 years, a group of grown women had this need to say thank you and good bye?

I speak for myself and all those women.

We met Mrs. Mackey (in those days we called her Mrs.) when we were teenage girls in love with art. Art classes were offered once a week for 50 minutes as an elective. It doesn't take much to realize how little you can accomplish in that short a time. So Mrs. Mackey turned the art room into an open studio during the lunch time -- not only for the art students but for anyone in the school who was interested in exploring, working on projects: painting, drawing, creating sets for the school operettas - The Mikado immediately comes to mind. There were even a few boys that came regularly to share in this outlet for creativity.

The Art room was a haven for us – especially those noon time classes. In her art room she created a space where we we could talk, be ourselves, experiment - always felt accepted, listened to. She stimulated our interest in art - not only for art's sake – but as a way of looking at the world.

I remember one day she put up a slide of three birches in a forest and asked us to look at it for about 2 or 3 minutes. It seemed an interminable amount of time to me. Then she turned off the slide projector and asked us to draw what we had seen. As I tried to
remember the angle of the branches, the relationship of the trees to each other - it was only then that I realized that I hadn't really seen and taken in the image. When she put the slide back up, a new way of looking appeared. I remember for weeks later walking home and to school and taking in the impressions of the street, the trees, the people in a completely fresh way – an interest and appreciation of the visual world.

We brought our drawings and paintings to Mrs. Mackey but we also brought our lives, our teenage problems,(and as teenagers you always have many) our unformed opinions about almost everything (ditto – the many. She listened to us with an open
heart, a bemused smile, never judging but always asking the right question that made you reconsider, take a wider view, a larger perspective.

The art room was a place where friendships were formed – some of them have lasted to this day.

Over the ensuing 5 decades, a new phase of our relationship with her developed. We became women and she became “Helen” to us, a friend and not just a mentor.
Some of us moved away from Montreal, but never missed an opportunity to visit Helen. Always the generous listener, our lives interested her – what were we doing? How were things

She had her own passions. Her love of art (of course) , of theater, of music and of literature. These things interested us too and she shared her thoughts and impressions with us. And it was at this intersection of our mutual interests, leavened with her
openness and kindness, that our friendships with her developed and blossomed. Each one of us has specific memories of our enlivening visits with her, dinners, phone conversations, trips to Stratford, and so on. It always struck me strange that at the end of a visit she would always thank me for coming while I was the one who felt so grateful for what she had shared with me.

Despite her warmth, Helen was quite reserved and actually “in the closet” about her age. We all did different calculations in our heads trying to figure out how old she was! Most
of us didn't find out that she had hit 90 years of age until after she passed it and somehow we couldn't quite believe – Helen 90? Her openness and involvement in the world belied her age. (The only thing we couldn't convince her to do was get email.
Lucky for us, because we each have lovely letters and cards written in her hand.)

So here we are individually and collectively remembering a friend, a teacher, a woman of grace, dignity and elegance and how she enriched our lives.
Mrs. Mackey left an indelible mark on my life. Although fine arts was not my forte in the practical sense, I received something very special from Mrs. Mackey... my lifelong appreciation for the great masters and their special contributions to the arts throughout history. When I visit a museum, both at home and abroad, I can hear her voice . She was a teacher I will never forget.
How strange to come across this on a night when I am idly surfing the net to discover how much of the lost and undiscoverable past is still out there somewhere. I entered her name, and this site is what came up. What a strange feeling. And apparently she passed away not long ago.

Mrs. Mackey (as I will always think of her) was always number one on my list of memorable teachers. It is good to hear that she had a similar effect on many others. She was a remarkable, inspiring person, with indefatigable patience and enthusiasm for teaching, and she was about the only teacher who, so far as I can remember, made my wretched high schol years bearable.

She taught us English at Outremont High, as well as art, round about 1966. It was under her beatific inspiration that I went on to study English at McGill. Not a wise choice, as I never came across anyone on the faculty of McGill with her breadth and insight and capacity to inspire.

I will never forget how she taught us Hamlet ... by doing the play and then going directly to the critical sources. Everyone in the class got a different critic and a different perpsective. Mine was "What Happens In Hamlet", John Dover Wilson's book, one of her favorites, too, I think, and a real eye-opener for me. The result, when it all got put together among the group of us, was a dizzying, multifaceted, insight, a peeling away of layers and layers like the skin of an onion, and something that left us feeling as if we had stepped into a vast, intricate, hall of mirrors. I, for one, was left with unending appreciation for the genius embodied in the plays. Very few can have had such a total-immersion experience with secondary school Shakespeare.

We were an insufferable, ambitious, overachieving, know-it-all bunch. She seemed to tolerate all of us and see into all of us, with that amused, ironic twinkle in her eye, that managed to put into perspective, without ever judging, all of the posing and bluster and drama and self-centeredness of the high school years, and move us beyond them, so far as we could, into the world of Dickens and Austen and the great poets.

She inspired a lifelong love of reading. I remember her giving me a history of modern English literature, though I no longer remember the author, which I combed through with almost obsessive attention, extracting an annotated list of leads and authors to follow up which kept me busy (and haunting used bookstores) for years to come.

Never in contact with her after those couple of high school years, but never forgot her.

Charles Small
I just heard, from a friend, that Mrs. Mackey died last month. She is so vivid in my mind. Her face with her warm and watching eyes, her presence, what she wore day after day. Her lipstick - a muted color, yet quite strong.

I was lucky. She was my Art and English teacher from Grades 9-11. (No more Art class in Grade 11 - I took the final test at the end of Grade 10, and I remember how sorry I was that it meant the end of Art class.)

I especially remember loving Art class. There were 5 of us who cared most, were most intent - each of us doing very different work - all of our styles equally accepted.

I remember hearing the names of artists in her classes that I could not find later - like Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, a favorite of Marie Antoinette (if I'm remembering right) - and Suzanne Valadon, mother of Utrillo. And Mary Cassatt. I did actually find them again later, when feminism had an impact on the art world. And then there were books and exhibitions on these women.

They already had space in Mrs. Mackey's classes. (Only she didn't tell us how hard it would be to find them elsewhere. Had I only imagined these women, I sometimes wondered, when I went to museums in Europe - and then there it was, one time in the Louvre, a painting by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun.)

I remember that memorizing Shakespeare didn't count, in Mrs Mackey's English classes. A relief for me. I remember the agony, in an earlier English class, of having to get the commas and dahses right.

Instead I remember loving the classes. I don't remember what we talked about, what she said. I just remember the pleasure.

I'm one of those who didn't keep in touch with her. I did go back once, maybe a year or so after leaving high school. But I really had nothing to say.

I've done a lot of teaching since - university and CEGEP. If I've been able to reach any of my students as she reached so many of her students, that would be great.

She is so vivid in my mind just now.

And it's so amazing that I have just learned of her living until last month, and of her passing. I was talking with a friend - and she mentioned this special high school teacher she had had - and so we found that, though in different years, we had shared the wonderful Mrs. Mackey - now Helen to her.

I am grateful she was in my life. Her presence. Her knowledge. Her quiet reserved giving.

I am sure there is more, but for now, this is it.


I had never seen a photo of Mrs. Mackey as a young woman. In my mind's eye, she is some indefinable middle age. Good to see her as a young woman.
It is very difficult to grieve Helen's passing. She was a very special teacher and I was fortunate to have a lifelong relationship with her. I don't know why but I always sent her a Christmas card, and she always sent me a birthday card. Since I moved back to Montreal, we have had opportunity to go to the museum together and to talk more frequently on the phone. What I learned in her class, a lifelong lesson, was that everyone is an artist - it only requires the support for self expression and tolerance for that expression. She allowed us to be who we are, while also teaching us what she appreciated about the great artists of the world and how to look at paintings, to "see". She opened the art room over lunch time for anyone who wanted to work, and this became a therapeutic space. She was reserved but thoughtful and involved. Years later she shared that she understood that many of the students in her classes were mostly a special cohort of children of survivors of the Holocaust: that was never acknowledged. But she understood that without saying a word about it till many years later.

I always wanted to capture her beautiful presence and talk about her life. To that end we had some conversations and she shared about the special work she had done when she taught English and her students writings were actually published. I recall her helping us to do the scenery for the Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado: in high school. She had also kept some of the paintings that her students had left behind.

After she retired she did some serious volunteer work while keeping up with her favourite arts and plays.

I will deeply miss her reassuring presence.

One more thing. When I lived in NYC she and her husband visited and stayed in the other apartment that I was renting to visitors at the time. We were riding on the bus on Fifth Ave, when she noticed that a man had taken a wallet out of a woman's bag. She said in a loud voice, in a crowded bus in NYC, where in those days, everyone more or less had their head done,- "that man has your wallet!" - And the wallet dropped to the floor. What courage!

I am wondering how to create a more permanent memorial for her that we can all share and remember her with.

While I was in Outremont High, she helped us put on the Mikado, one year. And I know she had kept some of the artwork of her students.

Anyway, I will write something on the website as well but I wanted to share these thoughts with you in particular since I know you had a very special relationship with Helen as well.

I had talked to her before I left to see you, and was planning to see her when I returned.
Mrs. Mackey entered my life, and the lives of scores of others, as our high school art teacher at Outremont High School, in 1959. In addition to our art classes with her, the art room was our haven during lunch hours throughout our high school years. I cherished that place and time as an outlet for creativity, and as a safe harbour. I was touched by her sensitivity and commitment to others, and her passionate approach to the arts and to life. Helen remained close to many of her former students after graduation. Serene, gentle, wise, kind beyond measure, Helen Mackay continued to be an important part of my life in the fifty-four years in which I was privileged to know her. Her passing represents a significant loss to all of us who knew her. However, we celebrate her life, a life well lived. The joy of having had her in my life will remain with me always.
in fond memory of Helen Mackey.

Mrs. Mackey entered my life, and the lives of scores of others, as our high school art teacher at Outremont High School, in 1959. In addition to our art classes with her, the art room was our haven during lunch hours throughout our high school years. I cherished that place and those lunch time hours as an outlet for creativity, and as a safe harbour. I was touched by her sensitivity and commitment to others, and her passionate approach to the arts and to life. Helen remained close to many of her former students after graduation. Serene, gentle, wise, kind beyond measure, Helen Mackay continued to be an important part of my life in the fifty-four years in which I was privileged to know her. Her passing represents a significant loss to all of us who knew her. However, we celebrate her life, a life well lived. The joy of having had her in my life will remain with me always.

Vicki Silver Zack
Helen was my dear aunt. I didn't know her very well, but was fortunate to meet her last year. We immediately felt we were kindred, sharing our love of art and craft. I am saddened today to learn of her passing.
Helen was an old friend from the 1960s. She and I had much in common and we always met when I revisited my home city, Montreal.She was wise and witty, and held firm views. I shall miss her. Stephen Jasper
I will always remember my wonderful trip to Montreal with my mother, Mary-Anne King, to come visit my grandmother, Mary Biers. It was a fun chance to have all the ladies together and it was so nice to spend time with my grandmother's sisters. I will always remember Helen's warmth and generosity. Although that was the last time I saw Helen in person we continued to stay in touch through the mail...I would share pictures of my daughter and was always so pleased to get something from her as well. Thank you for your effort to keep in touch and always thinking of us. You will be greatly missed.
If it wasn't for Helen MacKey, I would not have gotten through High School. Her visits with us at our reunions over the past 40 plus years were so special and kept the spark between teacher and student alive beyond the norm. Ginny Gita Arian
I will always remember Helen not only as a wonderful teacher who was non-judge mental but also as a strong role model. The lunch hour art classes where we could experiment with anything we wanted and talk about various subjects will always be a cherished memory. Later in life Helen became a dear and close friend who was always available for a good chat on art, music,books and life in general. A compassionate and warm person, who laughed easily and made one feel comfortable, I will always remember her.
I was at Strathcona from 1950 to 1954 and have fond memories of Mrs. Mackey as a favourite art teacher. Sympathy to her family.
you were a terrific teacher.
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