Hundreds pay tribute to Montreal community activist June Michell at Union United Church

Click to play video: 'June Michell, founder organization that helps domestic violence survivors, dies'
June Michell, founder organization that helps domestic violence survivors, dies
Hundreds gathered on Saturday to celebrate the life and legacy of June Michell, who died this month – Jul 27, 2019

Hundreds attended an emotional memorial service honouring June Michell on Saturday at Union United Church in Saint-Henri.

Michell, a longtime advocate for survivors of domestic violence in Montreal and co-founder of Women Aware, died at 63 on July 7. Many who knew her described a huge void left by her loss.

“I’ll remember her openness, her generosity, how kind she was and how she was so interested in helping people — especially women, especially those who were experiencing conjugal violence,” said Erene Anthony, a longtime friend of Michell’s.

“She’s a great person. If you’re hurting, she’ll feel your pain and do what she can to take it away,” Rebecca Goodwin told Global News as tears streamed down her face.

READ MORE: June Michell, advocate for survivors of domestic violence and co-founder of Women Aware, has died

“She was a tremendous leader and offered support to countless women needing services, especially in English in the west end, which is really important,” said Marlo Turner Ritchie.

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Michell’s crusade to defend abused women began with herself.  She took her son Tyson McLellan away from violence when he was just five years old.

“My earliest memories of my mother are of her being strong, and defending herself against my father,” McLellan told the hundreds in attendance during the eulogy. “The strongest day she had was the day she decided to leave him and make a change.”

She co-founded Women Aware in 1995. The non-profit centre strives to end domestic violence against women, men and children and offers support to victims.

“She decided it was tough enough for herself that she didn’t want other women to be struggling with these emotions, these feelings,” said McLellan.

Named Woman of the Year in 2015 by the Montreal Council of Women, Michell was also heavily involved in Union United Church. She sang in the choir and helped out any way she could.

“Up until the last minute, she was working on a grant for the church and it was submitted just before she died,” said Michell’s friend and fellow church member Deborah Hunt.

READ MORE: Deals reached on paid time off for domestic violence victims the ‘beginning of a wave,’ expert says

Person after person described Michell as kind and selfless.

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“She just seemed full of energy and always smiling. When I think of her, it was her smile,” said friend Wendy Baker.

“She understood how to take care of people,” said Global News photojournalist Phil Carpenter, a friend of Michell’s. “She always put herself last. No matter what she had to do, she always put other people first.”

“She always seemed to be a part of organizing something,” said well-known Montreal jazz pianist Oliver Jones. “She was a very loving lady.”

Michell’s son hopes his mother’s teachings live on.

“She always did the best she could to be the best she could,” McLellan said. “It’s not just about yourself. Put yourself aside and put someone else forward and see how much good can come out of that.”

Women Aware is accepting donations in Michell’s honour.

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