It was a cool and rainy Thursday morning, hardly conditions for an outside dedication ceremony of a new bench at the Pilgrim Senior Center. So, appropriately the event was moved inside to share memories of Corinne McDermott who was fondly remembered for giving so much to so many.
Center manager Kathleen Bennett was teary-eyed speaking about Corinne who she came to know well throughout her short time at the center. Bennett organized the ceremony and was incredibly helpful in assisting the family in their time of need.
“She [Corinne] was very sweet. This is a joyous occasion,” said Bennett. “Thank you everyone for coming and sharing this moment.” Bennett then opened up the floor for anyone who wished to speak about Corinne.
Mary Lou Hall, one of Corinne’s two daughters was visibly broken up. Attempting to hold off her tears, Hall remembered her Mother living in Harrisville less than a decade ago before moving to Sparrows Point housing in Warwick. She lived alone and it wasn’t easy for friends and family to visit, or for her to get out.
“She was sad and depressed. She felt like she didn’t have a purpose in life,” said Hall. After the move to Warwick, things took a major turn for the better.
The Pilgrim Senior Center opened its arms up to Corinne, offering her a caring community and staff to socialize with. She became a center regular.
“She had a purpose. She had her life again,” said Hall. Hall left the audience with a word of praise. “Thank you all very much for making our mom happy.”
“She was the real deal,” said Olivia Cadoret. “When in this world today do you meet the real deal? I met one. Her name was Corinne,” said Cadoret
Then came Kathy Eastman, tall with short gray hair, Corinne’s closest friend at the center. Optimism and love filled her voice. “She [Corinne] had so much silliness. So much happiness,” said Eastman. She paused in a moment of reflection. “We really miss her. And I’m glad I got a chance to know her.”
Wayne Sheats, Corinne’s grandson, stepped up to the front of the room to play ‘Amazing Grace’ on his baritone ukulele, which he had only started learning months before. Sheats held Corinne very near to his heart and became emotional as he was playing. Stopping short, he said playing the short version is easier right now as it is tough to go on in a sad state.
Corinne was born in 1934 and died last June. Everybody, from those who had met her once to family members who knew Corinne her whole life, adored her spirit, her loving nature, and her friendship. She was eighty-four years old.
Following the ceremony people gathered for coffee and pastry.. Kathy Eastman began to recollect.
“Corinne loved coming here having breakfast. She always had one piece of raisin toast because two pieces was fattening,” Eastman chuckled. “She loved the sing a-long on Tuesdays. But most of all she loved ceramics. I have to tell you, the ability she had was unbelievable. It got to the point where we made so many things. So, we made a decision to stop going to ceramics. Otherwise we would’ve had to rent a mansion to put them in.”
Eastman recalled the Masquerade Ball Pilgrim held not too long ago. She told Corinne “we’re going out to get a costume.” Corinne had reservations but Eastman persisted as a best friend always does. “She was Jamie Bond, instead of James Bond,” laughed Eastman. “Corinne absolutely loved the toy gun we bought for the costume."
Trish Fenton, another of Corinne’s friends reminisced about the little inside jokes the two shared. Outside at the bench, Fenton pointed to a white van next to the building. “We used to sit on that limousine together on the ride to Pilgrim,” said Fenton.
Corinne’s family wanted to do something for the center and to remember her. The staff suggested a tree, but thought a bench would be even better.
“I wanted, and I think the rest of the family wanted mom to be remembered. And for people who are younger to still be close to her,” said Hall.
The bench overlooks the bocce court.