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A Musical Gift

Ellwood House tenants were thrilled to receive a piano from the church! And it’s not just any piano. It is the piano donated in 2000 in memory of Joan Jackson, a long-time church choir member.

After losing her husband at an early age, Joan took a job in the federal government in order to support her young children. Her love of singing brought her to St. Thomas and a spot, for many years, in the soprano section of the choir. An elegant, stately, quiet woman, Joan always had a smile and hello for all the members of her church family. Later, after purchasing a home in Beacon Hill, complete with a garden of her favourite violets, she continued to drive the longer distance to choir practices and weekly services until the time of her sudden passing.

Joan was present at the outdoor dedication service of Ellwood House, singing a special anthem with the choir following the solo “Bless This House” sung by fellow choir member Jo Tyson. Joan and Jo also performed together with other choir members and friends Pat Thorpe and Phyllis Thompson in the “Tyson Trio,” entertaining at various seniors’ homes in the city, as well as presenting skits and musical numbers at St. Thomas church functions.

Joan would be charmed to know that her piano has found a welcoming home at Ellwood House, where it can be enjoyed by all the residents. So, the next time there is a singalong or someone plays a tune, just know you are keeping her memory

and love of music alive.

In the photo Joan Jackson is second from left in the second row.

A Musical Gift

A visit from the Mayor!

Guess who dropped in to see us at Ellwood House recently? Alta Vista Councillor Marty Carr brought Mayor Mark Sutcliffe by on their tour of Alta Vista ward. Bob and Roger tweaked a few weeds out of the flower beds in preparation. And we discussed our plans for scaling up the number of affordable apartments for seniors in the Ottawa community.

A visit from the Mayor

Alta Vista Centenarian

Michael Alexander Ernest Mulligan, born June 19, 1923, and raised in Ottawa during the Great Depression in present-day Little Italy, has lived a long, healthy and happy life. He is a first-generation Irishman, his mother Bridget Hill having immigrated to Bytown at the age of 25 from Strabane, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, in 1914 just as WWI began. His father Wilfred Mulligan’s ancestors also emigrated from Northern Ireland during the Great Famine in 1842; they were original homesteaders west of Bytown along the Rideau River from Hog’s Back to Dow’s Lake.


Well-known Ottawa landmarks Mulligan’s Florist and the Green Valley Restaurant along Prince of Wales Drive (formerly the Prescott Hwy.) as well as Mulligan Drive and Park in Barrhaven are all descendants of these pioneers. Their farmland eventually was expropriated for the Central Experimental Farm and the Arboretum in 1886 when they relocated to Rochesterville. A memorial plaque at the Experimental Farm dedicated to the original immigrants (great-great-grandfather) John I and Elizabeth “Biddy” Mulligan was unveiled in 2009. Subsequent descendants were employed at the Experimental Farm all their lives: Ernie’s great-grandfather John II (tragically killed there in a cyclone), his grandfather Alexandre Mulligan (Farm Foreman), his father Wilfred (Cereal Division), along with many uncles and his brother Gerald Mulligan (Botanist).

Growing up during the 1930s, Ernie attended St. Pat’s and Glebe Collegiate, boxed at The Ottawa Boys Club on Somerset St., worked summers giving swimming lessons at Plante Bath on Preston St., riding the streetcars on Bank St. selling newspapers, as a telegram bike courier for National Telegraph Co. on Sparks St., and finally as an office boy for the Dept of Munitions and Supply before signing up for the air force in 1942. Although his desire to be a pilot was dashed due to imperfect eyesight, he got a lucky break when chosen for wireless school. After training in Galt, ON, and Montreal, PQ, he was posted in Chicoutimi, PQ, and Dartmouth, NS, before going overseas to York, England, in 1943 where he served as an inspector of radio technicians with the RCAF Ghost Squadron 428 Lancaster Bomber Group, at right. In June, 1945, he was en route aboard the Aquitania to regroup for Australia when the war ended and he was one of 7,000 soldiers welcomed home at Pier 22 in Halifax, NS.

Following his RCAF service, he continued to work for the Federal Gov’t and married Gertrude “Trudy” Myers in 1950; they lived in an apt on Bronson (at the present-day Queensway) until purchasing a new Campeau Construction home on Micmac St. in Alta Vista in 1955, when the city of Ottawa ended at Billings Bridge. The main thoroughfare was called Churchill Drive and every second lot was on a septic system as there were no storm sewers. They raised their family of three children on Micmac St., where he spent 2/3 of his life in the same home; the family skied together and enjoyed annual summer camping vacations to the Maritimes and northeastern United States. Retiring at age 55 from the Federal Government’s Industry Trade and Commerce Dept, Ernie and his wife Trudy, while still maintaining their Alta Vista home, divided their time between their place in Central Florida and their cottage in the Gatineau Hills, which he continued to do after her passing in 1997. 


In 2017, when he finally decided to downsize and sell his home after 62 years, he was adamant not to leave his Alta Vista neighbourhood, and Ellwood House was the perfect solution — only blocks away! He didn’t have to change any of his routines, remaining close to all his familiar necessary locations: grocery, drugstore, banking, haircuts etc. Being “up in age,” this was a crucial consideration.

Ernie loves living at Ellwood House: the location, people, neighbourhood, administrators and, especially, the very helpful and kind security tenant, Bob Gravelle. There’s a great sense of community, which he’s appreciating more now that, since COVID, he’s spending his winters in Ottawa. He loves that his unit is on the first floor, having a small outdoor patio and street access on Braeside Ave., such a beautiful, quiet street lined with mature trees, just like his Micmac St. home.

He’s often asked the secrets of his longevity. People want to know how he’s still living on his own, driving and swimming, not having any major health concerns, not dependent on any medications. He believes much of his extended life is owed to active outdoor living. Working at the lake, gardening, fishing and, especially, his beloved tree and bush trimming, in addition to being a Snowbird able to escape the harsh Canadian winters allowed him to walk, swim and golf year-round, certainly adding healthy years to his life.

Maintaining a large group of friends with common interests throughout his life — attending the NAC, playing euchre, golfing, theme parties and travelling with many cruises as highlights — is also key to a long life. Sadly, he has outlived every close friend, a definite downside of aging. He also credits a supportive family; having all three of his children and their spouses within 15 minutes of his apartment in Ellwood House makes living solo possible.

The recent surprise party honouring his 100th birthday held in the community lounge at Ellwood House was a great success. He really enjoyed the dignitaries’ greetings (from Prime Minister Trudeau, Governor General Mary Simon, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and King Charles) and celebrating with his neighbours, friends and family. He’s so comfortable and content at Ellwood House, glad to be able to live independently at 100 years old.



JL Mulligan

July 2023

Alta Vita Centenarian
The Story of Bob and Linda

The Story of Bob and Linda

Meet Bob and Linda, longtime Ellwood House residents.

Bob Gravelle is Ellwood House’s security tenant—he looks after some of the regular chores and acts as backup when the property manager is not there. He’s also a school crossing guard. You’ll see him out helping the children of Alta Vista Public School cross the Bank and Randall intersection. He’s lived at Ellwood House for 19 years.

Linda has lived at Ellwood House for 13 years. That’s right—they did not arrive as a married couple. They were married four years ago in the lounge at Ellwood House by the Rev. Peter Crosby, of St. Thomas the Apostle church, on whose campus Ellwood House stands.

Bob arrived at Ellwood House with his first wife, Elaine. They were young seniors at the time, but Elaine was not well. She had developed Lambert- Eaton syndrome, a rare neuromuscular disorder, and that marked the end of their world travels. When Linda arrived at Ellwood House, she and Elaine became good friends; and Linda would sit with Elaine when Bob went to his once-a-week bowling. Elaine passed away in 2017.

Bob Gravelle.jpeg
Bob and Linda-cropped.jpeg

The lovely apartment featured in photos on Ellwood House’s website is Bob and Linda’s. They were pleased when it became available shortly after they got married. “It was better to start afresh, in neither person’s old apartment,” says Linda. They kindly allow visiting dignitaries to check it out, when it’s convenient. Combining two households wasn’t easy, says Linda. “There had to be a lot of give and take.”

Bob and Linda are both longtime Ottawans, although Linda is originally from Peterborough. After raising her children in Ottawa, she worked at Sears for 25 years. She was one of Sear’s knowledgeable appliance salespeople. Luckily, she retired before the company closed all its Canadian stores, so she feels lucky to have her pension. 

Bob started his career in the military, where he worked on the DEW Line. Then he spent eight years owning, training and driving racehorses at Rideau Carleton Raceway, Connaught Park and Blue Bonnets Raceway in Montreal. Later, he worked in security with the federal government, where he was heavily involved in the lead-up to Y2K—remember that? After taking an early retirement, he became a security consultant, advising private companies and members of Parliament about the security of their private homes.

Bob spearheads many of the social events at Ellwood House—Canada Day, Grey Cup, Octoberfest, Christmas, Tuesday afternoon tea times; they’re all good opportunities to socialize. Bob operates the BBQ and is in charge of the furniture for most events; Linda and several other tenants help in the kitchen.

“It’s an apartment building—not a retirement home,” they say. “We all have busy lives, but it’s nice to get together with our neighbours.”

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