In Memory of

Obituary for Shirley Dysart

It is with great sadness the family announces the death of Shirley Theresa (Britt) Dysart which occurred at Bobby’s Hospice in Saint John, New Brunswick on December 14th, 2016. She was the daughter of the late Leslie John Britt and the late Mary Agnes (Donovan) Britt.

Besides her parents she was predeceased by her husband of close to forty years, Dr. H. Eric Dysart, three brothers. Dr. Daniel Britt; J. Raymond Britt and Kenneth E. Britt.

She is survived by two sisters, Joan D’Armours (Guy) Montreal, and Anne Levasseur of Saint John, New Brunswick; two brothers John (Jack) F. Britt (Marjorie) of Saint john, New Brunswick and Gerald F. Britt (Mary) of Trenton, Ontario; also mourning are six sisters–in–law, Bonita Britt, Fredericton, New Brunswick; Ellen Britt of Surrey, BC and Olga Britt of Rothesay, New Brunswick; Eileen Dysart of Burlington, Ontario; Alice Dysart of Moncton, New Brunswick and Mary Dysart Dionne (Robert) of Sutton, Quebec, along with a brother in law from Sackville, New Brunswick Patrick Dysart and many nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews and cousins across the country. She is also survived by her only son, J. E. Britt Dysart, her special daughter–in–law Angela, her much loved granddaughters Emma Elizabeth and Madeline Marie of Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Shirley Dysart was the eldest child in a family of eight and was educated in the public school system in New Brunswick. She graduated from St. Vincent’s High School, New Brunswick Teacher’s College and University of New Brunswick Fredericton, eventually receiving a Beaverbrook Overseas Scholarship to attend the University of London. Inside her family she was seen as a principled leader, an activist, a role model and a motivator. She had a sense of service and generosity which eventually spilled out into public service. Mrs. Dysart often acknowledged that while she might have had the luck of the Irish, she always believed that most luck came from hard work.

Her life of service began as a teacher at St. Vincent’s High School and following a successful teaching career, in 1967 she became a member of District 20 School Board, eventually serving as chair of this board for three years, the first woman to hold this position.

In 1974 she accepted the nomination of the New Brunswick Liberal Party to run in that year’s provincial election and was elected to the Legislative Assembly. She was the first woman elected in New Brunswick as a representative of the Liberal Party and only the second woman elected in the history of the Province. She went on to be elected again in 1978, 1982, 1987 and 1991, remains the only Liberal to win five consecutive elections in the City of Saint John. During this time she served on the Bi–Centennial Celebration Committee for the Province of New Brunswick in 1976, served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and volunteered with many local charities, including the Red Cross, Romero House, Meals on Wheels and others. In addition, during this period she became the first woman to serve as the Leader of a political party in New Brunswick, having been chosen as interim Leader of the Opposition in New Brunswick in 1985. With her strong interests in education and the advancement of youth in our Province, she was sworn in as the first woman Minister of Education following the 1987 election and worked to introduce free universal kindergarten in New Brunswick. This position was very special to her and one of her proudest moments in public life was attending with then Premier McKenna at the opening of the first Province wide kindergarten classes.

On October 8th, 1991, Shirley Dysart was elected the first female Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of New Brunswick and enjoyed the confidence and respect of all her colleagues from all political parties.

Upon her retirement in 1995 after 21 years in public life, she remained active both in greater Saint John and in the Province of New Brunswick.

She was asked to serve on a number of Boards, including Theatre New Brunswick, The Theatre New Brunswick Foundation, The University of New Brunswick Alumni Council and The New Brunswick Competitive Festival of Music, on most of which she rose to serve as Chair.

She was throughout her life strongly committed to her Church and many religious organizations, including serving as President of the Catholic Women’s League and supporting, both as a volunteer and contributor, many church charitable endeavors in greater Saint John.

Over her lifetime Mrs. Dysart received many awards in recognition of her service. Among them were receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, The Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada, The Red Cross Humanitarian Award, The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Paul Harris Fellowship from the Rotary Club of Saint John.

Mrs. Dysart was also awarded a Championship of Public Education Award, an Honorary Doctorate in Law from University of New Brunswick and was presented with the Order of Canada by the Governor General for outstanding and commitment to her follow citizens in Canada.

Throughout her public service as a teacher, an elected representative, a volunteer and even a retiree, Shirley Dysart distinguished herself in each and every endeavor.

The family wishes to thank her physician Dr. W. Irving, Saint John Regional Hospital Extra Mural Program and Dr. O’Brien and staff and volunteers at Bobby’s Hospice.

Resting at Fitzpatrick’s Funeral Home, 100 Waterloo Street, Saint John, New Brunswick (634–1965).Visitation will occur on December 29th, 2016 between 3pm and 8pm. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 91 Waterloo Street, Saint John, New Brunswick on Friday, December 30th, 2016 at 12:10 pm. Interment will take place in St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

The family requests in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Romero House, Restoration Fund for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception or Bobby’s Hospice. Online remembrances and condolences may be placed at