A Sister We All Loved

If you were lucky enough to have a sister like Isabel you should count your blessings as siblings such as her are very rare indeed. She was a special lady.

Mary Isabel MacMillan first saw the light of day in Sydney City Hospital on the 13th. Day of June 1931 and from that day on she brightened the lives of all who were fortunate to meet her. She was a sister we all loved.

Her Smile

Perhaps the most obvious trait of her personality was her infectious smile. It brightened the day of everyone who witnessed it and we always felt better for it.

As a young girl Isabel was a good student and took an active part as a team member on the basketball team.

Graduation from Nova Scotia Normal College. Dads sister May, Margaret, Terry, Uncle Alex MacDonald, dads sisters Teresa and Pauline.

After graduating from Mount Carmel High she moved on the Provincial Normal College where she obtained her teachers license and, upon returning home to New Waterford she taught school.

She Meets Russell

Soon she met the love of her life in the form of 6’ 4” Russell MacNeil who also was a teacher. It was love at first sight and on the 20th day of August, 1956 they were married in Mount Carmel Church.

In short order their 4 children arrived in the form of Bruce, Pamela, Gordie and Darryl.

She Loved to Cook

Isabel was not only a wonderful wife and mother but was a terrific cook and loved to entertain her many friends by producing their special baked goods such as apple and lemon pies, tea biscuits, brownies, and cakes of every description. Her cooking and baking library swelled to over 300 recipe books. She was not the type to buy a book and let it sit. She tried them all. Her greatest joy was to make someone happy with her baking. She made the most wonderful apple pies ever.

A Wonderful Voice

Isabel loved to sing. Enter her home and you would hear her sweet voice echoing throughout the rooms. Nothing gave her more pleasure than to sing along with her mother, Margaret who accompanied her on the piano. She became an active member of The  Cape Breton Chorale and remained with the group for many years. She was a sister we all loved. The highlight of her musical career was the trip the Chorale took to The Llangollen International Eisteddfod Music Festival held in Wales GB in 1993.  

She Was Not an Outdoors Person

This to Isabel was roughing it. Bob and Terry on their boat in Salmon Arm,

Isabel hated bugs and flies. One year we talked on the phone and she said she would like to try camping. Irma and I offered to loan her our equipment to give it a try. A few days later she and Russell came to Beaver Cove for a visit and we had our tent, stove and all of the gear ready for her. The first thing she asked was “will there be bugs anywhere”? We assured her that there would be and that was enough of that. Thanks but no thanks.

Bookstore Manager

Isabel began her career as a clerk at the Xavier Junior College Bookstore. She loved her work and was soon made manager. Once the University of Cape Breton took over the Xavier Junior College and opened the new campus on Glace Bay Highway Isabel moved there as manager of the bookstore and did so diligently until she retired. Each time we stopped by to visit her at work she appeared to know most of the students who were coming by to shop.

No Exercise Thank You

Isabel did not care to exercise or walk. It was not in her makeup to do so. She loved to watch television. She loved to keep in touch via telephone. She often would call and say “guess who just died”. She knew everyone in the town.

Christmas 1958 with Joe and Irma in back and Russell, Terry, Isabel and Ray.

Isabel underwent bypass surgery and possibly due to her diabetes, the scar would not heal. For almost 2 years she suffered with treatments to clear things up. This problem seemed to trigger the deteriorating effect that bedeviled her health for the rest of her days. She suffered without complaint.

Married Life With Russell

Isabel and Russell lived for their children. Never was there a more caring couple who instilled within their children the urge to be the best you can be.

Theirs is a true love story. Isabel thought the world of Russell and the reverse was true as well.

Russell was a wonderful sportsman. Early on he was on the Strands Baseball team, but it was his skill as a basketball player that made him a standout. Playing with the New Waterford Strands he was on that team when they won the Dominion of Canada Title. He was a star athlete while attending St. F. X. University.  

Russell Moves On Up

He moved on from his teaching career to become the director of Fitness and Culture for the Cape Breton Area for the Province of Nova Scotia. From that platform he was chosen to be the General Manager of the Jeux Canada Games in 1987. Also during that era he was involved with the Olympics games and served on the selection committee for the Canadian team participating in the Games held in Rome. He also served for many years for the Canadian games.

With the games over, he entered politics and stood for 6 years as the member for Cape Breton East as a Member of the Nova Scotia Legislature.

After losing traction on the ice and snow while traveling to Halifax in his vehicle and suffering serious injuries he made up his mind to retire for good.

They Move to Dartmouth

Russell and Isabel took up residence in Dartmouth to be near their children who were now settled in the area with their respective families. They loved having their children nearby and reveled in having the grandchildren come by for visits. She was a sister we all loved.

Russell was elected to the St. F. Xavier Sports Hall of Fame in 2009, an honor he so richly earned.

Unfortunately Isabel’s health worsened over the next couple of years. Eventually she required full time nursing care in a nursing home where on the 9th day of a cold November morning her heart gave up and she passed away with her family by her side. She will never be forgotten. She was a sister we all loved.


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