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Profile 2 - Cathy Cleary

By Anne Ginn with photography by Randy deKleine-Stimpson

Gene O'Reilly“Everyday, do one nice thing for yourself and one nice thing for somebody else — it doesn’t have to be a big thing,” are words to live by for Cathy Cleary. But she does more than be a little nice on a daily basis. Cathy’s career and volunteer work, based on kindness, compassion and her capacity to connect people, have made big changes in the lives of many, both locally and internationally.

Cathy is best known in Kingston for her volunteer work in Africa. She did not, however, grow up dreaming that she would be involved in international development. Cathy was born in Smiths Falls and grew up in several smaller towns in eastern Ontario with her three siblings. When she finished high school, she went to Western University in London, while her boyfriend, Randy Cleary, remained in eastern Ontario. The two were still madly in love, so Cathy left London to move back to Cornwall to be closer to him. There, she completed a diploma in finance at St. Lawrence College and began a career in banking. Eventually, both Randy and Cathy relocated to Kingston where, in 1982, they married.

“It feels like a whole other lifetime ago,” Cathy says. “But I loved it at the time. It was great work. I liked numbers, I liked people.” Although it was long ago, the administrative and organizational skills that she learned during this period would prove to be vital to her work today. . . .

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