Catherine Margaret Soo Chan Gomes passed away November 15. Her Funeral Mass was November 20 at St Patrick’s RC Church, Newtown. Her friend Maria Superville-Neilson delivered the eulogy, an edited version of which follows.
Catherine Margaret Soo Chan Gomes, ‘Maggie’ or ‘Mags’ to some, was the 11th child of George and Thomasine Soo Chan and lived at Mt Lambert before coming to Port of Spain when she married Selwyn Gomes.
Her large family was quite close, guided by the sound teachings of her parents so that on occasion when the family members did not see eye-to-eye, they would always stand by each other and help each other in times of need. Integrity, honesty and the Catholic religion were some of the many attributes inculcated in the Soo Chan children, especially by their mother Thomasine, who was a wonderful woman whom Maggie loved very much.
Margaret’s secondary schooling was at Woodbrook Secondary after which she joined Charles McEnearney & Company on September 8, 1971 as secretary to the director in the Engineering Department, Bryan Medford.
She was shy, timid, reserved and sheltered, and only after mixing with those in the department, did she come out of her shell.
Through her conscientiousness she subsequently became the Secretary to Conrad O’Brien, Managing Director, until the acquisition by the ANSA Group. She maintained close relations with the O’Briens until Conrad’s death, his wife having preceded him.
While managing directors came and went, Margaret remained a fixture in the office of the managing director. After O’Brien, she served Joe Esau, Robert de Montbrun, Richard Jackman, and Michael K Mansoor before spending the longest period with A Norman Sabga who would later become Chairman and Chief Executive.
Having reached the age of retirement in 2014, she was offered the position of Office Manager which she accepted. It must be stated, however, that position was a title to a portfolio she already held, since these were duties that she performed as Executive Assistant to Norman Sabga.
On September 8, she completed 48 years of dedicated service to the Group.
Our Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Sabga said it well when he stated that Margaret would be remembered as a caring and thoughtful person with a positive can-do attitude, who was always full of energy, carried a mischievous sense of humour, an infectious spirit and a passion for life. She loved and treasured where she worked and gave graciously of herself above and beyond the call of duty.
Margaret also had an active personal life and she knew how to compartmentalise work and personal life so much so that when Selwyn came to tell me that he was getting married to Margaret, I asked him ‘Margaret who?’ That was the best kept secret in the office! I was not the only one to ask that question.
Margaret moved at top speed and she could get you giddy, so maybe for that reason in later years, both as a means of helping other people and as a means of relaxation, she took up tutoring at The Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA), which she totally enjoyed. She also volunteered at Eston Study Centre.
Margaret’s love for her God and her Catholic faith spurred her to be involved in as many ministries as she could, first at the Mt Lambert RC Church and then here at St Patrick’s.
She was appointed Chair of the Pastoral Council in November 2005 and remained in that position in the service of three parish priests, Fr Henry Charles, Msgr Esau Joseph and Fr Herbert Charles CSSp. She loved her priests and always looked after them.
She was so excited when she got her red Chevy, which she called ‘Firefly’, and she zipped around in it at unreasonable speeds and at all hours visiting the aged, taking communion to shut-ins, carrying Sunday lunch, and attending meetings.
Margaret brought tremendous value to St Patrick’s. In addition to being Chair of the Pastoral Council, she was a Lay Minister, an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, a Catechist, joint coordinator of the altar servers, Chair of the Events Committee (although she said she was acting Chair) and the Vocations Committee.
On October 12, 2002 Margaret married Selwyn Gomes. She loved him dearly. Here was her ‘Sel’ as she called him.
In a letter to Conrad and Pat O’Brien on August 1, 2002, she wrote: “I am very happy with my husband-to-be whom I am blessed to have at this time in my life. Already he has made a big sacrifice for me and I would never to be able to love him more than I do now. I am looking forward with much joy to my life with him and his family, and whatever the future holds, I ask God for the grace to help us to live it to the full, humbly, responsibly and with love.”
So, she was taken, and we are left to mourn a dear friend, a colleague, sister, aunt, who loved each and every one of us unconditionally, forgiving us all our faults. May God now reward her with a room in His mansion and let us remember our own mortality and try to emulate the kindness, generosity, humility, service and love for others as did Catherine Margaret Soo Chan Gomes.