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Cheri Macaulay: ‘The ability to find wonder’ in Calgary

In 2001, Cheri Macaulay held the first coffee party for Coun. Druh Farrell’s first-ever civic campaign.

“That’s where I met her and we’ve been close ever since,” said Farrell, in a conversation with LiveWire Calgary Monday.

Over the weekend, Macaulay, a tireless community booster and advocate, died of cancer. Farrell said she didn’t want to use the word “battle” to describe her illness.

“She lived with cancer until it took her life,” she said.

“That was so typical of Cheri. Cancer wasn’t her enemy. It was something she had. Cheri lived until she died.”

What initially drew Farrell to Macaulay was the Brentwood resident’s courage and kindness; she was always fighting for her adopted city with grassroots action and all-around neighbourliness.

Farrell said it’s not normal for her to remember the first time she meets people. She did, however, remember that first encounter with Macaulay.

“I remember her laugh. Cheri had a big, beautiful laugh,” Farrell said.

Little things to improve life in Calgary

Whether it was founding Civic Camp – an organization dedicated to grassroots efforts to make the city better – or sparking the Little Free Library movement in Calgary with the first one on her own lawn back in 2012, or her work on the Brentwood Transit-Oriented Development, Farrell said, Macaulay always found a way to give back.

Farrell said she always found a way to build community by bringing together people from all walks of life to change the direction the city was headed.

“She was a fearless protector of people who needed her strength,” said Farrell.  

“She was so incredibly generous with her time and her wisdom and she touched so many people’s lives.”

The Little Free Libraries were a perfect example of Macaulay’s impact, Farrell said.

“They’re small little acts that individuals can accomplish, but they make a big difference,” she said.

Macaulay moved to Calgary from Ontario with her husband Rob. They raised two sons in the city.

Farrell said the deep connections to her neighbourhood kept Macaulay in Calgary. She couldn’t walk down the street without people stopping her to say hello and start up a chat.

As big as her impact was, Farrell said her dear friend delighted in the small things the city had to offer. Whether that was feeding the chickadee or trying to find the owls on St. Patrick’s Island.

“I believe that was her source of joy; just the ability to find wonder,” she said.

Cheri Macaulay remembered at city council

A moment of silence was observed at Calgary’s city council meeting Monday, in honour of the civic contributions made by Cheri Macaulay. She was the 2015 community advocate award winner for the Calgary Awards.

“Starting at Civic Camp, I never knew that going for a coffee at Higher Ground on a random weekday morning would lead to being the mayor – because I had coffee with such an inspiring person,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

The mayor added that the Three Things for Canada wouldn’t have happened if Macaulay hadn’t said, “let’s figure out ways to get people working.”

He said as he thinks about Macaulay’s contributions, he’ll remember what makes a city special.

“I remember that it’s about looking your neighbour in the eye and saying good morning. I remember this about little things that every single one of us can do, whether we’re in power or not, just to make this place a little bit better,” Nenshi said.

Farrell said if Calgarians can learn one thing from Cheri Macaulay it’s to have courage and be kind.

“It displays the best of what humans can accomplish and we should all aspire to be like that, because we would have a better world.”