It’s easy to be eclipsed when your spouse is a star. Here’s how five unsung partners find their own way to shine
Well-known public figures tend to be recognized wherever they go. People clamour to meet them, engage with them, and take a selfie with them. But if you step back, you may see that there’s another character present in the picture. This other person may be quietly walking away or waiting patiently off to the side. You might smile their way, for a second or two, but chances are that if you were to see them again—without their famous spouse—you won’t know who they are.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the less well-known partners in five true power couples. Though they generally prefer to stay under the radar, each of these spouses is remarkably engaging and accomplished in their own right. Not to mention inspiring. Which begs the question: how did we not know more about them all along?
I don’t need public recognition,” says Dr. Allison Furey. “I know I’m valued by the organization. And I know I’m valued by my family. That’s what matters.” Furey is answering a question about Team Broken Earth, the Newfoundland-based charity providing medical care and education to low-income countries around the world. Her husband is frequently celebrated as the organization’s founder, but Allison Furey’s role is less well known.
She was with her husband on his first trip to Haiti in 2010 following a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. They were there for a week, providing emergency care and saving lives. By the time they returned home, they both knew the work was too important to stop. “Making a difference means so much to us,” she explains.
For Andrew Furey, growing Team Broken Earth has meant a full roster of speaking engagements, fundraising, meetings, and mission planning—on top of the demands of his already demanding medical practice, plus a hefty load of other volunteer work.
For Allison Furey, it’s meant managing a very busy household with military efficiency. Between them, the Fureys’ three children are involved in nine different after-school activities. Then there’s the schoolwork itself, plus appointments, birthday parties and other social activities. With the help of their babysitter, the support of a parental car pool, and her husband when he’s available, Allison Furey-the-mom makes sure everyone gets where they need to be, when they need to be there.
Meanwhile, Allison Furey-the-doctor—the science-loving girl from Portland who followed in the life-saving footsteps of her firefighter/flight paramedic father, completing 10 years of post-secondary training to become a physician—she has three jobs. Each week, she works three shifts at Atlantic Offshore Medical Services and two at the Janeway children’s hospital emergency department. She also conducts a walk-in health clinic once a month. Then there’s her own active volunteer schedule with six different organizations—one of which is Team Broken Earth.
Answering the obvious “how does she do it,” Furey humbly notes that her workload is standard for most working parents. “I’m extremely fortunate to have help, and the flexibility to pick up my kids after school every day.”
Still… wouldn’t life be a lot less stressful without Team Broken Earth? “Absolutely not,” she says. “It has filled our lives with greatness and a wonderful family that extends from here to Vancouver to Boston to Haiti to Bangladesh, and beyond. Stress for us would be to stand by and do nothing.”
Meeting Stelios (“call me Steve”) Doussis at The Merchant Tavern in downtown St. John’s, he greets you with a full-eye-contact smile and a “come in, sit down” sweep of his arm. “Some water?” he asks. “A glass of wine?” And just like that, he makes you feel as comfortable as he would in his own home.
The warm welcome comes naturally to Doussis, a legacy of his Greek culture and a childhood immersed in his parents’ Montreal restaurant. “Greeks love to entertain,” he says. “This is who I am.”
A professional restaurant management consultant and coach, Doussis works with managers and owners to help them refine their business. “True hospitality is making your guest feel valued the minute they walk in the door. My job is to coach staff on how to deliver hospitable service with love and happiness.”
“This is one of mine,” he says proudly of the Jeremy Charles/Jeremy Bonia-owned eatery he helped establish (one of Canada’s Top 100 restaurants this year). The Riviera in Ottawa is also one of his. “The Riv,” as he calls it, is ranked in the top 50 restaurants in the area—out of more than 2,200—according to TripAdvisor.
Referencing his latest project, Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca, he notes that exceptional service isn’t restricted to fine dining. “It should be so engrained that the server could be wearing jeans and it won’t matter—that’s how seamless it’ll be.”
Sitting across the table, you can’t help but observe that Doussis’ gregarious personality and background make him the perfect political spouse—which he is. His husband is federal Minister of Veterans Affairs, Seamus O’Regan.
“Yes, there are a lot of synergies between what he does and what I do,” Doussis agrees. “He and his team listen to people, then they work to address those issues and concerns. It’s similar to the way I listen to my customers and appreciate their feedback as an opportunity to do better.”
Doussis, however, has the advantage in that he can turn off the job and vent with his Greek friends when he needs to; as a public official, O’Regan is always on. Does Doussis ever resent the public intrusion in their private lives? “How could I?” he asks. “His constituents are very important to him. I see the love that he has for what he does. I want him to follow his passion and he wants me to follow mine. That’s what I love about him.”
Life is much simpler these days, says Doug Bennett. “We can go to Costco now.” The St. John’s native is referring to the time from 2015-17 when his wife was Minister of Finance for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. She delivered a tough budget that made her the most unpopular person in the province.
“It was bad,” says Bennett. How bad? “There were death threats. We had to have an RNC officer talk to our boys about safe practices.”
As a father, Bennett helped his sons put things in perspective even as they saw their mom being denigrated on social media. As a husband, he worked to assure his wife that she had his full support. “She was getting beat up enough at work; she needed to know she had a safe and sympathetic environment at home.”
It was a tall order: how can you support someone when they can’t talk to you about the issues that trouble them? Cabinet secrecy prevented Minister Bennett from sharing many of the details of her day with her husband, just as her government role stopped Doug Bennett from talking to his wife about business issues.
Bennett became president of the Bennett Group of Companies (BGOC) in 2013 when his wife ran for leadership of the provincial Liberal party. While he had some experience with BGOC doing “back office” work and with Newfoundland Power as an IT specialist, Bennett had been primarily a stay-at-home dad since 1998—a role he describes as the “most rewarding job” he’s ever had.
Jumping from back office to corporate president was a big leap: BGOC includes an eight-restaurant McDonald’s franchise, a collection of executive office space facilities, a spa and several real estate holdings. “There I was, a neophyte owner/manager with direct access to someone with more than 20 years’ experience, and I couldn’t ask for her advice.”
Bennett not only learned quickly (aided by McDonald’s exhaustive, fast-tracked management training program, as well as a strong team at each of his business units), he did so while being actively involved in the community. He’s held numerous volunteer leadership positions, including his current role as chair of the Victoria Park Foundation.
Even though his career seems to have just rolled with the tide, Doug Bennett insists he has goals. “I’m determined to grow our company, and to be known as a business owner who appreciates his staff and gives back to his community.”
“The previous owner left big shoes to fill.”
She’s team lead for marine and customs goods procurement with Public Works and Procurement Canada—but not for much longer. Joanne Pardy is retiring in June (after her 50th birthday) so she can home school her adorably precocious and musically talented pre-teen son. Henry, you see, has autism.
“There are so many new things associated with junior high that we just don’t think it will be a positive environment for Henry—he gets easily overwhelmed,” she explains.
The move to homeschooling is the latest in a long line of transitions for Pardy. She spent a year at MUN before studying naval architecture at the Marine Institute. Landing a job immediately after graduation, she saved enough money for a down payment on a house and rented out two of the three apartments (she lived in the third). Her plan was to use the rental income to pay off the mortgage. It worked so well that she bought a second property, then began managing properties for other people—all while working her full-time job.
When government downsizing pushed her out the door, Pardy found work at the Nova Scotia shipyard—until downsizing once again forced a change in career. She went back to school to finish her Bachelor of Commerce (she’d been studying part-time all along), which led to her current job with the federal government.
There were, of course, other notable events happening along the way… like her marriage to well-known Canadian entertainer and best-selling author, Alan Doyle. They say that opposites attract, but that’s too simplistic a description of Pardy and Doyle’s 27-year relationship. It’s more accurate to say their differences complement each other: his need to entertain and gregarious personality compel him to go on tour; her introversion and independence keep her content when he’s gone. “Who knows, it might annoy me if he were home all the time,” she laughs.
Pardy has more than enough to occupy her time and mind. “You should see the stacks of books and research I have on homeschooling!” Then there’s the possibility of some accounting-related work—“I really enjoyed accounting when I did my BComm.” And she’s involved with the Inn at Mallard Cottage guest home. And there’s always the possibility she might start up a new business, and become more involved with her husband’s latest endeavour, the Dollar A Day Foundation to fund mental health and addictions programs. There’s always an “and” with this dedicated multi-tasker.
Describing herself as “naturally quiet and shy” Karine Lavoie admits to being a little “freaked out” by the attention given to her and her fiancé’s March 2017 engagement post on social media. “It got a lot of ink.”
And little wonder: her fiancé was (they married in October) Brian Gallant, Canada’s youngest premier and leader of the Government of New Brunswick. While it could be argued that a political spouse should be prepared to have a public role, Lavoie says they have tried to be private about their relationship.
Still, you can’t blame his constituents for being curious about the woman who Gallant has publicly described as the most “thoughtful, generous and patient person” he knows.
Born in Dieppe to a hairdresser mother and an RCMP officer father, Lavoie grew up in Fredericton with her twin sister (not identical) and an older brother. She has a degree in Event, Sport and Tourism Management from the Université de Moncton, where she played on the school’s soccer team. Though she was a versatile player, she was most often a goal-scoring forward.
Since graduating, Lavoie has garnered a depth of experience beyond what you’d expect for someone her age: she’s worked with a number of towns and cities in communications and recreation departments, and just completed a year-long contract with the Department of Canadian Heritage, organizing Canada 150 activities for the entire Atlantic region. “Between the engagement and the wedding and work, it’s been an interesting year. I’m taking a breather now before I decide what to do next.”
Outside of work, Lavoie says she’s passionate about helping others (she once travelled to Haiti on a humanitarian mission), and she frequently volunteers at schools, seniors’ homes, community events and charities. “I like to give as much of my time as I can, like my mom.” (Lavoie’s mother passed away a few years ago.)
She is also a dog lover (she has a nine-year-old adopted canine, Blaze) and a strong advocate for healthy living.
As for politics, Lavoie says she supports her husband’s goal of making New Brunswick a better place, but she prefers to stay out of it. “Our home life is a break for him from a job that can sometimes be very stressful. Politics is his thing and his job. I have my thing and my job. When we’re together, we do things that we both care about.”