TIGNISH, P.E.I. - In 2013, Antoinette Perry sold her house in Tignish and moved into a two-bedroom apartment.
On Friday, she took residence in stately Fanningbank in Charlottetown as Prince Edward Island’s 42nd lieutenant-governor.
Perry, who is single, plans to take the notable upsizing of accommodation at the Government House of P.E.I. in stride.
“I’ll get used to it,’’ she told The Guardian during an upbeat, lengthy telephone conversation Wednesday.
“You know, home is where the heart is. You make your life where you are. I can’t see it being a huge challenge for me.’’
She also does not seem to be intimidated in the least about tackling the host of constitutional duties, as well as attending a heavy agenda of ceremonial and community functions in the role of the Queen’s representative as provincial head of state.
“I feel comfortable in front of a group, that’s for sure,’’ says Perry, a retired school teacher and active community member.
“I would consider myself a people person.’’
Perry, the first Acadian woman to hold the post, is excited with the prospect of continuing to celebrate her Acadian culture during her five-year term as lieutenant-governor.
However, she is quick to note that she considers herself first a Canadian, second an Islander and third an Acadian.
“It’s the Canadian flag that people see on my suitcase when I fly to Europe,’’ says the fluently bilingual Perry.
“I’m so proud to be Canadian.’’
“I’m looking forward to the whole experience…and to welcome people in. I love, love, love welcoming people into my home. For me, it’s the right fit.’’
-Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry
Perry, who taught French and music at Tignish Elementary School for 32 years until her retirement in 2009, will ensure music flows through Fanningbank.
The long-time organist and church choir director at St. Simon and St. Jude Parish is looking forward to tickling the ivories of the grand piano at Government House.
“There certainly will be a lot of music there,’’ she promises.
“I really look forward to entertaining or welcoming a lot of performers there.’’
While she enjoys entertaining people, Perry says what she most anticipates is the LG’s frequent task of presenting awards to acknowledge the notable achievements of Islanders.
“I’m looking forward to the whole experience…and to welcome people in,’’ she says.
“I love, love, love welcoming people into my home. For me, it’s the right fit.’’
Perry plans to lean on advice from her predecessor, Frank Lewis, who suggested she pace herself and be herself.
“If I’m overtired, I’m no good to anyone,’’ she says.
Perry was diagnosed in July 2009 with Bell’s palsy, a condition in which the muscles on one side of the face become weak or paralyzed.
Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien had an attack of Bell's palsy in his youth, permanently leaving the left side of his face partially paralyzed.
She notes her right eye and her mouth droop when she grows tired.
Perry noted that, like Chretien during his lengthy career in public life, she feels capable of managing a busy schedule quite well.
“My level of energy is usually pretty good,’’ says Perry, who begins each day with 20 minutes of yoga and a three-km walk.
Perry hopes to maintain her strong connection with Tignish, where she grew up as one of nine children living above her parents’ general store called E.C. Perry’s Grocery – a store run today by her brother, Tommy Perry, as Eugene’s General Store.
She was sworn in Friday at the Tignish Parish Centre, marking the first time the ceremonial event took place outside of the provincial capital city.
“I hope to come back to Tignish at least once a month to play the organ…mostly I want to keep a connection with my community,’’ she says.
“It balances me. There are people in the community that are my balancing board…so it’s important for me to keep my contact.’’
Antoinette Perry snapshot
Here are some highlights of Antoinette Perry, the first female Acadian lieutenant-governor of Prince Edward Island:
- Established the West Prince Music Festival.
- Served on the executive committee of the P.E.I. Music Educators Association.
- Served on the P.E.I. Education Commission.
- Directed the Bicentennial Choir for the first ever recording of Ave Maris Stella, the Acadian National Anthem, with the official French verses.
- Spearheaded in 2011 the organ restoration project for her parish.
- In addition to her music interests, her hobbies include cooking, yoga, travel and discovering hidden treasures in P.E.I.