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BRUNSWICK, Me. – Credit unions in Maine have lost one of their shining stars and one of the true spirits of the credit union movement. Jeannette G. Morin-often referred to as the “Mother of the Maine CU Movement”-passed away this September at age 90. “I guess I would describe her as an angel,” says Roger Sirois, executive vice president of Atlantic Regional FCU-formerly St. John’s Brunswick FCU, where Morin was manager and treasurer from 1944 through 1974 and an honorary director through this year. “She always looked at the good in people-she never criticized. She was always looking to help people, which is the credit union philosophy.” Born Jeannette Gervais on Feb. 4, 1914, Morin moved from Boston to Maine as a young girl, when her father-who was an organ builder and artist specializing in wood carvings-decided to go into the clothing business with his brother-in-law. After growing up in Brunswick, she married Joseph Morin (who died May 26, 1979). Morin suffered from a miscarriage in her early years and couldn’t have any children, but it was the credit union that she referred to as “the child she never had.” “Her life was the credit union,” says Morin’s niece, Carmen Shearer. “She believed in it and the good it did for the community.” Morin was recruited to do office work in the early days of the credit union, which was chartered in 1941 and served as a resource for members of the Catholic parish who often experienced prejudice because of their French heritage. For many years the credit union was run out of Morin’s home, and no time was ever inconvenient if a credit union member was in need. Shearer recalls one Thanksgiving dinner where there was a knock on the door. Morin admitted a credit union member who needed a loan and sat down at her desk, which was right next to the dining table for many years, to process the request. Morin’s history is filled with similar stories-completing a loan at 5 a.m. Christmas morning for someone who had to go to Canada because of a death in the family.having rocks tossed at her bedroom window at 11 p.m. so that a credit union member could get money to repair his chainsaw because he was going out to the woods the next day. “She never refused anybody,” Shearer says. “She made sure they got the financing they needed.” Whether it was determining if someone was “worthy” of a loan or “worthy” of employment, Morin had an eye for people. Jeannine Messier, vice president of member services at Atlantic Regional FCU, tells how Morin used to “case” the church congregation on Sundays for likely CU employees. That’s how Morin came to hire Jeannine 41 years ago. “This credit union wouldn’t be where it is now without her,” Messier says. Steve Obrin, president and CEO of Atlantic Regional, recalls how Morin always kept the needs of members foremost in her mind and how she would call regulators-prior to NCUA becoming the regulatory agency-to persuade them to improve legislation for the members’ benefit. “She had no qualms about going directly to the source and saying, `My members need this, credit unions in the state need this,’” Obrin says. Obrin also recalls with great fondness Morin’s annual lobster parties for board members at her family “camp” at Tondreau’s Point. “She would hand wash every single steamer clam,” Obrin says. “There was never any grit. There was a routine where after each clam was individually washed, she would spread a tarp and flush them again.” But, it was Morin’s keen business sense and belief in what she called a “CU rainy day fund” that helped to grow the credit union, including an increase in assets from $5,000 to more than $5 million during her tenure. (Current assets are $185 million.) During Morin’s 60 years as a credit union activist, her influence stretched beyond that of her own credit union. She helped organize eight credit unions in Maine, and she was one of the pioneers of the Maine Credit Union League Insurance Trust, which is still in existence today and offers an array of products for credit unions and their members. In 1960, Morin was only the third woman in the country to be elected president of a league. In 1973, Morin was the first person from Maine-and the fifth overall-to receive a special Merit Award from NCUA for “her outstanding and special contributions to the Credit Union movement.” And, for 56 years, prior to retiring in 2001, she served as the Maine Credit Union League historian. “I saw her at the annual meeting this spring,” says League President John Murphy. “She was looking much younger than her 90 years-with her hair all in place and dressed up. And, you could just see the pride in her face as she heard the operating results.” Considering Morin’s rsum, it’s hard to believe she had time for anything other than the credit union. However, according to her niece, Morin was a world-class traveler and an avid photographer. “She loved Tokyo, and Hawaii was her favorite-she went there six times,” Shearer says. “She took slides of everything.” Morin enjoyed viewing her slides nearly to the end of her life. “This summer at the camp, we were sitting around, eating lobster and decided to watch one of her `shows,’” Shearer says. “We went inside, closed all the curtains, looked at the slides and drank coffee. Her eyes just sparkled-it was such a reverie for her to look at them.” Morin’s tenacity and strength served her well through her life, particularly during the last few years because of health problems. “She was in a lot of pain, but she was always smiling,” Shearer says. “I was with her when she passed, and she had a smile on her face until the end.” [email protected]

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