Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 15, 1999
Turgeon played the organ, helped the poor
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Irene Turgeon was a gifted organist and pianist who played in almost every church in Edmonton. She played at weddings, funerals and receptions. If somebody couldn't pay for her services, Turgeon would play for free.
Turgeon played at Immaculate Conception Church for 47 years and at Park Memorial Funeral Home for 25 years. She also made time to help the poor and visit the sick.
"She was a very spiritual and wise lady," says her daughter Marie-Claire Turgeon. "She was very supportive and extremely generous."
Turgeon died Jan. 15 at the General Hospital Continuing Care Centre. She was 100.
Born in Quebec on June 25, 1898, Turgeon moved to Edmonton in her early 20s. She had developed pulmonary problems and doctors recommended she move to a drier climate. Her parents knew the pastor of Immaculate Conception and arranged for her to stay with the priest and his sister at the rectory.
The priest asked her to play the organ during Church services and that led to a prominent career as an organist and pianist. "She played in almost every church in the city," recalled Marie-Claire.
"She was very busy. She played at weddings, she played at funerals and she played at Park Memorial Funeral Home for 25 years. At one point in time she was the best organist in the city."
For her contribution to the field of music the Alberta government awarded Turgeon a special commendation.
Turgeon and her husband Noel, a city police constable, raised five children. One of them, Bernard Turgeon, was a professor at McGill University and a famous Canadian baritone. He now lives in Victoria.
The Turgeons took it as their mission to encourage strong family values, maintain their French-Canadian culture and provide support to their family, friends and community.
Alongside her musical commitments, Turgeon was always actively involved in helping the poor, giving money to different families, giving food, making clothes for people. She often sent sandwiches to the Marian Centre for poor inner city residents.
Sometimes she would play for free at weddings or funerals of people without resources.
She would also regularly visit the sick at the Edmonton General Hospital, where three of her children were born. She shared meals with family and friends in the hospital's cafeteria and offered her musical talents to the West Edmonton Seniors, of which she was a member.
"If somebody was in the hospital for sure she would visit and if they died for sure she went to the prayer service and she always went to the funeral," Marie-Claire recalled.
"She was always a very active and a very independent little person, and very sociable."
Turgeon played at Immaculate Conception until age 87. She then moved to St. Joachim's Manor and became a member of St. Joachim's Parish.
Three-and-a-half years ago, following a stroke, Turgeon was admitted to the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre because she needed 24-hour care. She was a popular figure there.
More than 200 guests gathered at the General last June 25 to celebrate her 100th birthday. The Irene Turgeon Fund was set up then to enable the Continuing Care Centre to buy equipment not subsidized by government funding.