During Christmas in the Village 2010, retiring Director Catherine Coombes was feted and honoured for her 10 years of service to Queens County Heritage. Of the many cards and gifts she received, one was a Life Membership to Queens County Heritage.
Catherine Coombes has served as Director of Queens County Heritage since the spring of 2001 and in so many ways is the name and face of our organization. A resident of the Village of Gagetown for over 40 years, Cath has deep roots in the community as a descendent of some of the Loyalist founders of the village. For many years, she worked with her mother, Alleyne, operating Claremont Crafts and specializing in silk screening while also serving as an instructor at the College of Craft and Design. While working as craftspeople, Cath and her mother lovingly restored and preserved one of the architectural gems of the community, the 1850 Nathaniel Deveber House. A keen photographer, Cath possesses a unique appreciation of the world around her and is always game to accept new challenges and opportunities and is a tireless advocate for the activities of Queens County Heritage.
Like so many who enter our field for the first time, little did Cath realize the adventure she was embarking upon ten years ago! She brought a unique perspective and appreciation for arts and culture to the position of Director and during her time with us, she has served as the primary contact and coordinator for our fast growing organization. In the beginning, she willingly accepted instruction and soon blossomed in the position. She has supervised over 30 students; coordinated nine fundraising dinners, ten ghost walks and dessert theatres, ten Queens County Fair open houses and ten Tilley House Christmas open houses; managed the acquisition and cataloguing of over 3000 new pieces for the collection; participated in seven collection inventory projects ranging from textiles to photos to ceramics to archival collections; curated individually or jointly 20 plus exhibitions; worked on five exhibition renewal projects; managed attendance and financial figures, prepared countless reports and documents, and thousands of e-mail and telephone calls; managed three sites in two communities; and fulfilled the unending requests of the President and other Board members.
In the words of one of our members and volunteers, “few people can plan a party like Cath.” Whenever we mount a special public event, she becomes the hub of the effort, working long hours to energize and coordinate dozens of volunteers and staff with a kind touch that makes each one feel like a valued contributor to the mission. Her practical organizing skills, combined with her gift for nurturing volunteer relationships produce wonderful, collaborative events that manage each year to outshine the previous ones, and draw people back to our museums again and again. As a supervisor, she has always been patient and caring while ensuring that all of her students are able to reach their full potentials as interpreters and researchers. Under Cath’s direction and outreach, Queens County Heritage has truly been “Everyone’s Museum.”
Words to describe Cath? Gentle, kind, thoughtful, patient, willing to learn, tougher than she looks – she possesses a dynamism that belies her calm and composed demeanour! Her greatest assets? A fierce loyalty to her community and a firm commitment to the promotion of culture and heritage. As a result of her character and accomplishments, she was the winner of a 2010 Award of Merit from the Association Museums New Brunswick at their Annual General Meeting and Conference in October.
While we knew it was coming, the announcement that Cath planned her retirement was met by surprised silence around the Board table; we aren’t quite sure how we will get on with things without her. We are so proud to call her our colleague . . . and our friend.
Congratulations, Cath, on a job well done!