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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 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 below Joan Jackson is second from left in the second row.


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

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