Rev. Beverley Ketchen pays Tribute to Late Mrs. McQuesten [at her funeral, MacNab Street Presbyterian Church]
W0144a A FITTING EULOGY TO A CHRISTIAN LIFE
Dec 10 1934
It would be utterly impossible at any time, but especially here where fitting simplicity demands brevity, to pay anything like an adequate tribute to the memory of the brilliant and gracious lady whose passing has brought us together in sorrow and sympathy today. And indeed I know that any attempt at an elaborate eulogy would be utterly out of accord with her own refined tastes and wishes. But Mrs. McQuesten was too prominent a figure in the church life and the public life of Canada to be laid away without some vocal recognition of her outstanding character and work and influence.
When I came here nearly thirty years ago, it was she who put my first gown on me and her address on that occasion was a very memorable and impressive deliverance1. These thirty years if intimate association have greatly endeared her to me, as one of the brightest most courageous and most charming Christian ladies it has ever been my privilege to know.
Mrs. McQuesten was brought to this church as a very young bride and for nearly three score years and ten she has been one of the most conspicuous Christian workers and spiritual forces, not only in this congregation and community, but in the church at large.
It is hardly necessary here to give any detailed account of her untiring labours in connection with the women's missionary activities. As long as any of you can remember, her name has been almost a household word in the Presbyterian homes of Canada.
One of Founders
One of the founders of that wonderful, dynamic organization known as the Women's Missionary society, Mrs. McQuesten was for twenty-five years president of the auxiliary in this congregation, and for more than half a century has been very actively and prominently identified with the general work. Her knowledge, her rare constructive ability and the force of her earnest prayer-life being invaluable. One might say that missionary work was her 'ruling passion,' but she was never, even in the midst of her most strenuous missionary activities, a Mrs. Jellyby.2 She never neglected her primary duties in the home. She was a very devoted mother.
Naturally, she was honoured by the women of the church with election to the presidency of the provincial society, and in her latest years she has been a very highly esteemed and valued honorary president. To the very last, although growing physical infirmities curtailed her activities in that direction, her interest remained as keen and alert as ever, for neither her brilliant mind nor her indomitable spirit ever showed the slightest sign of infirmity. And while for some time she has not been able to mingle in the councils of the church, her prayers were doubtless bearing rich fruits, which, now that the day has broken and the shadows have fled away, must gladden her ardent spirit.
As I have said, Mrs. McQuesten came to this church as a very young and strikingly beautiful bride, and although her life has not been one of luxurious ease, but has had its full share of troubles and burdens, and responsibilities and cares, that singular loveliness was in her face to the last.
The spirited daughter of a commander in the Royal Navy, she knew how to weather stormy seas and how to fight a good fight, and I should attribute her rare and steadfast courage to her unshakeable faith in God, her daily communion with Him, who gave her the strength and guidance and help she needed from day to day through the years, and the unfailingly loyalty and devotion of her family. Not many finer things are ever seen on earth than the romantic tenderness of that devotion, which she so well deserved, and we are glad that before the end she enjoyed the thrill of a mother's pride and joy, through the distinction in her son.
Mrs. McQuesten had a real Puritanical sense of right and wrong. Her uncompromising conscience would not countenance anything that was not utterly honourable. But with all that inflexible integrity were blended a very great kindliness and the graciousness of a true lady. She was an aristocrat by birth and breeding; she was an aristocrat intellectually and spiritually, too.
Lavender and Old Lace
Many of you who knew her only in public life saw, perhaps, only the brilliant side of her, admired the remarkable mind and realized the force and influence of an exceptionally strong personality. But it was in the home that she was at her best, where her wit sparkled most and where her gentleness overshadowed her cleverness. To see her in the home or about the beautiful garden that she loved so much was to think inevitably of lavender and old lace. How fitting it is that her body should be surrounded here by these beautiful flowers, but we believe that her spirit is now surrounded by beauties greater far, in that 'land of pure delight' and 'land of everlasting spring and never-withering flowers.'
The editor of the Herald very fittingly spoke of her love of beauty, and referred to her as being in great measure the inspiration of the notable beauty spots in our city. Thus indirectly she has rendered a great and lasting civic service, of which, our parks will be beautiful monuments for all time. And that same inspirational influence is yet to be felt more widely through the services political and otherwise, of those who inherited from her so much.
No eye hath ever seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ever entered into the heart of any one to conceive the service she has rendered even more indirectly still through her constant, earnest, faithful intercessions at the Throne of Grace.
It was a very great privilege to know her. Her memory will ever be cherished with reverence and affection, and we rejoice to think of the exceeding great reward which the grateful Master must have prepared for her.
1 I am unable to locate this "impressive deliverance." A news clipping in the archives at MacNab Street Presbyterian Church states simply: "A silk gown was presented to Rev. Mr. Ketchen on behalf of the Ladies Aid Society. Mrs. McQuesten made the presentation. . . . Preceding this, there had been several speakers (n.d. 1905).
2 Mrs. Jellyby is a character in Dickens' Bleak House who spends her time with the missionary societies and neglects her family.