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Sister act: Far-flung siblings re-establish family bond in Sarnia

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Your mom might have called them “live wires.’

A trio of sisters in matching shirts who sing at the drop of the hat, whether you want them to or not.

Who treat strangers like friends, and friends like family, and who rendezvous in Sarnia to celebrate a bond that transcends the small stuff.

“I like to bring my sisters to Canada because this is where our family began,” says Cherie Barnett, 66, a Courtright resident and host of Sisters Weekend 2014.

“We eat and shop, and we enjoy the history.”

Barnett and siblings Sandy Mazzarese, 73, and Kay Donovan, 80, are descendants of the pioneer Ouellette family, which arrived in Canada from France in 1666 and helped found the city of Windsor, Ont.

Most of the clan lives in the U.S. now but Barnett returned to her Canadian roots, and last year, at the age of 66, graduated from Lambton College’s early childhood education program.

“I’ve been here 38 years,” said Barnett, who’s been hired by the YMCA to work with toddlers and preschoolers.

“But every year my sisters and I get together. We waltz around, have a great time, and when people are kind to us we sing for them.”

A lot of people, it seems, are kind to them.

Sisters Weekend was born in 1991 as a way for the far-flung trio to stay in touch. They’ve met in numerous centres but this was the second year in a row for Sarnia, because it’s fun, says Kay, a Florida resident, just returned from a tour of the Holy Land.


Sandy lives in Brighton, Michigan and is learning French.

“We go to Canadian towns because I want them to know what a wonderful country they come from,” Barnett said.

For Sisters Weekend 2014 the trio shopped for a car in Point Edward, joined a credit union, sang for surprised patrons at Stoke’s and celebrated Kay’s 8oth birthday.

And while sightseeing near the Blue Water Bridge with The Journal in tow they burst into an unsolicited rendition of “Don’t Take My Sunshine Away” in three-part harmony.

“We have a lot of fun,” says Barnett, who is already planning a third reunion in Sarnia next year.

“This is a special thing and I’m so fortunate to have it. We’re all life-long learners.”

– George Mathewson






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