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Halifax Explosion survivor laid to rest on 102nd anniversary of the blast

Passing of Halifax Explosion survivor
Family remembers the amazing and fateful life of Cecelia Coolen a Halifax Explosion survivor

The family of Cecelia Coolen gathered to pay their final respects to the woman who is believed to be the last survivor of the Halifax Explosion and called it “destiny.”

Coolen died Sunday and was buried Friday at service held at the St. James Anglican Cemetery in Fox Point, N.S. The family believes it was an act of destiny, that Coolen, whose life was shaped so much by the explosion, would be laid to rest on the anniversary of the blast.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia marks anniversary of catastrophic Halifax Explosion 102 years ago

Coolen, was just 10 days old on December 6th,  1917 when the deadly explosion rocked Halifax, killing nearly 2,000 people and wounding many more, as the explosion was felt over 450 kilometres away.

The family said it was a miracle she survived at all, and by her story and the one she liked to tell, the family says Coolen was saved by the cradle she lied in.

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“She was in a wooden cradle, and the explosion tipped the cradle over and blew it across the room,” said Jim Power, Coolen’s nephew. “The cradle basically protected her and if it wasn’t for the cradle she wouldn’t have lived the life she did.”

Both parents were killed from the great explosion and Coolen was adopted and she would live to tell many stories, as her family remembered some of them, calling her an avid historian.

“She bought all the books and she read all the stories,” said Cathy Griggs, Coolen’s granddaughter.  “That’s how it sort of created memories in her own mind, so she had something to base herself on and where she came from. It was her foundation.”

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Coolen took issue with some of the romantic interpretations of the explosion, especially those on-screen, which she could barely stomach says her grandson Steve MacDougal.

Woman who was 10-days-old when Halifax Explosion occured passes away
Woman who was 10-days-old when Halifax Explosion occured passes away

“There was a movie made, and she said there was far too much romance and not enough explosion,” MacDougall said.

Coolen was present for the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and she nearly lived to see the 102nd, but in another twist of fate, she would die on December 1st, the same day her husband Cecil died–32 years before.

READ MORE: The silence after the blast: How the Halifax Explosion was nearly forgotten

Griggs says her grandma was a spiritual woman, strong in her faith, she placed some of Coolen’s rosary beads with her ashes and buried them next to her husband.

“She’s buried on the day of the anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, she was one to always plan ahead,” said Griggs. “And I wonder if that’s what happened?”

The family says they will now take on the role of the storyteller to make sure this incredible story of Cecelia Coolen is not forgotten.