Coughlan, Bert

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COUGHLAN, Bert (d. 1979)

                                     COUGHLAN: A MAN TO REMEMBER


The year 1979 saw the passing of an outstanding co-operator on the person of Bert Coughlan, of Nelson-Miramichi, NB.

What made Bert great was the purity of his philosophy. Having studied intensively and completely absorbed the cooperative doctrine; when it was hammered out in the grim depression days, he never became affected by self interest or the heresies that creep into any movement with the passage of time, and the degenerating effect of affluence.

We used to be told to practice what we preached; Bert lived the gospel. Many great speakers and orators justifiably resorted to colour and showmanship to put across their story. Bert never had to do this. His complete knowledge of his subject and deep sincerity made him a speaker who was in demand in many areas.

He was admired in his own village, in the Province, in the Maritimes, as well as nationally and internationally. In 1965, the year before he retired, he was presented with a plaque by the Cuna Mutual Insurance Society of Maddison, Wisconsin, for his service on the policy owners advisory committee. He was one of the first three Canadians appointed to this committee.

When Bert managed the co-op store he dealt exclusively, when possible, with the co-op wholesale and carried only Co-op label products.

He was a director of Brunswick Credit Union Federation, a director of Maritime co-operative printers and national director of the Co-operative Union of Canada. He had a gift for preparing and presenting in a very graphic and comprehensive manner any co-operative program he was promoting.

He was begged, almost drafted, to speak to priests and seminarians at a seminarians' school in Antigonish. A letter of thanks from Father Dan MacCormack assured him that his talk had been in the top bracket.

His ability to convey the message that the co-operative movement was basically an educational movement - the business aspects coming later - was the secret of the great success of Beaubear Co-op. Visiting educators and organizers were always greatly -impressed by the integration of the movement in Nelson. One of them wondered at a village of 285 families drawing almost 2,000 people to their auditorium night after night for a rural conference.

He succeeded in gathering around him an able team. John N. Dolan, Adrian English, Vincent McCarthy, Willard McFarlane and Leo Woods, to name just a few. With his great friend and supporter, the historian Father Broderick, who was parish priest in Nelson at the time of the great triumph when co-op houses were built on "Coady Street", they succeeded in having Bishop Leverman bless the individual homes. This was the first co-op housing project in New Brunswick.

Bert Coughlan carried the name and fame of Beaubear from coast to coast. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary congress of the co-operative Union of Canada the story of two co-op stores was told. One was Beaubear, the other the Red River co-operative supermarket in Winnipeg.

The name and fame of Bert Coughlan and Beaubear was likely carried around the world by students of Coady Institute who, on different occasions, visited Beaubear and enjoyed the hospitality of the people of Nelson- Miramichi.

When Bert retired in 1966, Rev. J.N. MacNeil, then director of Extension at St. F.X. and presently Archbishop of Edmonton, wrote to him extending good wishes. He expressed appreciation of the great contribution Bert had made to the whole Maritime region. He said Bert's record and reputation were known and held in high honour by all.

Source: Miramichi Leader - May 16, 1980


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