Half of a well-known Nova Scotia pro-life team died on May 23, 2007. “We are deeply grieved to announce the passing of our dear friend Marcella, wife of Joseph MacLellan, of Antigonish,” said the Campaign Life Coalition Nova Scotia newsletter of one its founders. At 78, Cella MacLellan had succumbed to cancer.
“Marcella fought the cancer in all the standard ways. For awhile, she seemed to be doing okay, but about a year ago, it got very serious,” her husband Joe told The Interim.
During the following months, judicious and compassionate use of medication administered under the watchful eye of their daughter Janice Peters, RN, kept Cella pain free until her last few hours.
Cella had a very deep faith and the family Rosary was always an important part of their daily life. So, when her death was imminent and the family gathered around her bedside in the family home that evening last May, it was completely instinctive to pray the Rosary together. “I held Marcella’s hand as we prayed and she said the prayers with us,” recalls Joe. Shortly after the final amen, she spoke once more, then her hand went limp as she slipped away into the next life.
Cella MacLellan was a dear friend to many, for she touched many lives. They describe her as a woman of warmth and generosity, with a great gift of hospitality, “a mother to all who came through her door.”
“Cella was steadfast in her beliefs and her faithfulness to her spiritual life set an example for us all,” says Miriam Smith, who has known her since they both enrolled in a business training program following high school.
For most of her life, Cella threw her energies into making the MacLellan household a true home. She and Joe had nine children, adopted another and foster-parented others.
Smith says, “She was a born mother. She nurtured her children, while accepting into her home for various periods of time her aging parents, an aging uncle, and five others in need of aid and care.”
Joe was a self-employed civil engineer with a consulting business that often took him away from home. “Marcella was a saint. A lot of the time in our 56-year marriage, she carried most of the load alone,” he says ruefully, “and it was a heavy load.”
Despite that, they had a close and caring marriage, says Smith, adding, “I firmly believe universities should give honourary degrees to mothers who make her kind of contribution to society.”
Cella’s commitment to faith and family found expression through a number of organizations. But many Atlantic Canadians got to know the MacLellans especially through their pro-life involvement.
“Joe and Cella gave of their hearts and their treasure to pro-life,” Herm Wills, president of CLC N.S., told The Interim. “They worked tirelessly for the cause. They attended dozens of conferences and meetings over the years, often travelling great distances at their own personal expense.”
He recalls their son’s death on May 13, 1992. “He was killed in a car accident involving a person who died of AIDS a few weeks later. We’ve been told that person was on a suicide mission that day. It still brings back sadness even to mention this episode,” says Wills. The MacLellans responded to the tragedy by erecting a pro-life billboard near the TransCanada Highway, just inside the N.S.-N.B. border. It was one of the first in this part of the country.
Joe and Cella were the founding members of CLC Nova Scotia and board members from the beginning. “After Cella’s death, we received over $1,000 in memorial donations,” says Ellen Chesal, executive director for CLC N.S.
Wills speaks for their many friends when he says, “We will long remember Cella’s warm, generous, undying love for life. We can be very sure she is petitioning the Lord above for the unborn.”