McWilliams, George

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One of the Miramichi’s well known and respected citizens, George (Sonny) McWilliams succumbed to cancer on Saturday. McWilliams died at the Miramichi Regional Hospital on Saturday, Jan. 10, 1998 at the age of 69.

Born in Newcastle, he came from a prominent family, the son of the late G. Roy McWilliams, a former Liberal Member of Parliament and Mary Kathleen (Richard) McWilliams. His father was the publisher of the North Shore Leader, a weekly newspaper serving the area. McWilliams was assisted by family members, including his sister, Helen Hayes, who was editor. The newspaper was founded by Sonny McWilliams grandfather George F. McWilliams, in 1906 and was sold to George Codogan in 1973.

Known to close friends as “Sonny,” he refused the opportunity to go into the newspaper business with his father, his daughter Kathy said. “I guess our father couldn’t pay him enough money and he opted to go to the pulp mill,” she added. McWilliams worked for the Fraser Pulp Mill until 1956, during which time he directed the Minor Hockey program through the Newcastle school system. Paul Barry Sr., who also worked in the newspaper business for some time, noted McWilliams was active in sports, particularly hockey and basketball.

McWilliams moved to Quebec and there he became recreation director at Temiscaming, for the CIP company and transferred to the Industrial Relations Department of CIP. Barry credits McWilliams with sending some good players from there to St. Thomas University, his alma mater.

McWilliams moved on to work as a negotiator for the treasury board on Ottawa and was a part-time member of the Federal Public Service Relations Board staff since 1984, acting on both arbitration and conciliation boards. Even after his retirement in 1989, he continued to work in the collective bargaining field and served on arbitration and conciliation boards, both in the public and private sector.

Miramichi Was Home

Daughter Gail said her father took early retirement because coming back here was always on his mind. “He wanted to get back here to enjoy the Miramichi, and the type of life here. He wanted to retire here. He loved sailing dearly. He bought a lobster boat, had it refurbished and it was quite the party place,” Gail remembered fondly.

There was one other love in his life. “The Mills Brothers – oh how he loved the Mills Brothers. To him they were the best,” she said.

Active after Retirement

After moving back to the Miramichi, McWilliams offered to serve the community in a number of ways. He ran in the first city election in Ward 2 but was defeated by Councillor Dodie Dickson. “He enjoyed the experience of running in the election and meeting the people,” daughter Kathy said.

The new city put McWilliams’ experience to work in other ways, hiring him to negotiate the contract for police, and inside and outside workers. Repap and Cassidy’s Beverages also took advantage of his knowledge in the labour field.

McWilliams was a veteran of World War Two, and belonged to several local organizations including St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, the Miramichi Golf and Country Club, the R.C.A.F. Wing and the Newcastle Curling Club Omega League.

The funeral will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Miramichi west. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Canadian Cancer Society would be appreciated. At the family’s request, there will be no visitation at the family home.

Besides his wife Eleanor (Cripps), he is survived by four daughters: Kathy, Gail, Beth, Susan; and one brother, David ; nine grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by a sister, Mrs. Karl Brunn.

Source: Miramichi Leader – January 13, 1998

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