A Newsletter for Friends of Unitarian House
Special Anniversary Issue
Original façade: drawing by Bradley, resident
New façade: drawing by Joan, resident
We begin on March 31, 2014 It was a beautiful warm sunny spring-like day. Inside the First Unitarian Church of Ottawa people gathered to celebrate March 31, 1984 and the 30 years that have followed. What a celebration it was. Our recently formed choir, led by Nick, performed songs, both serious and joyous, that enhanced the occasion and the speakers' presentations. Don, Charlene, Jan, Alex and the skit club highlighted the cornerstones of Unitarian House. Christina provided the glue that kept (and keeps) everything together. Those who attended were completely caught up in this demonstration of the heart that beats so strongly… that is Unitarian House. Christina paid tribute to those congregation members and supporters who, in the mid 1970s, had a dream. For 10 years they worked and persisted to make their dream a reality. Everyone who lives, works or volunteers at Unitarian House owes them a huge debt of gratitude. Founders: David Bray, Joan Brining, Robert Carson, Ferd Corbeil, Werner Daechsel, Frieda Dougherty, Keith Dowd, Lloyd Francis, Lorry Greenberg, Phil Gross, Sophie Hemelijnck, Frances Morrison, Robert Neville, John From our 20th anniversary celebration: Rutherford, Don Saxon, Dorothy Smith, Joyce some of our founders and supporters. Sweet, Ilse Wulf, Supporters: First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, Reuben Baetz, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Council on Aging of Ottawa, Jacquelin Holzman, Deborah Edwards Consulting, Jill McFarlane, Ottawa-Carleton District Health Council, Jean Pigott, Shannon Martin, Philip Sharp and Michael Conner, ParaMed Health Services, Brian Flynn. About Us • Spring/Summer 2014
These original contractors and associates have been continuously involved with UH for all these years: First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa: Carastan Carpet – Bob Hills: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: Delta Electric – Charles Gauthier: Shannon Martin- Barrister & Solicitor: Medical Arts Dispensary: Regional Plumbing: Dr. Arlene Rosenbloom: Toronto-Dominion Bank. Commemoration Book The Board of Governors has created a Commemoration Book to honour residents, staff and Board members who have made outstanding contributions toward the atmosphere of good fellowship and enjoyment that makes Unitarian House an outstanding residence for seniors. It will be on display for all to see on special occasions. A Glance in the Rear View Mirror At the time Unitarian House opened for business 30 years ago, other interesting events were stealing the spotlight. In 1984, the famous year of George Orwell’s prophecies, Pierre Trudeau took a walk in the snow and decided to retire as Prime Minister. His place was taken by John Turner and that same year Brian Mulroney won the largest majority in Canadian history. The average wage that year in Canada was $15,500. We were paying $2.50 for a movie ticket and a gallon of gas, not a litre, was $1.10. Golden Delicious apples were 43¢ a pound. Breakfast bacon was $1.69. The entertainment industry was having a really memorable year. Films to watch were Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and A Passage to India. On television, Jeopardy broadcast its first contests. Other shows worth watching were Magnum PI, Cheers, and Hill Street Blues. -2 -
Maybe it's a tribute to Alex Trebek or maybe the show's writers, but of all things noted above, the only two still going strong are Jeopardy and, thanks to the residents, staff and volunteers, Unitarian House. Agnes Fennell If you wanted to transform a half built house into a home, who better than a Newfoundlander from Bonavista Bay who raised six children, qualified as a nurse in Saint John's, cared for all ages from the beginnings of life to the final act; who better than Agnes Fennell, the first Administrator of Unitarian House? Her career took her to London, Moncton, back to St John's and then to Hillel Lodge in Ottawa where she cared for the elderly among Ottawa’s Jewish community and learned the ins and outs of a kosher diet to the point where some of the residents thought she really was Jewish. Agnes and Ferd
While she was at Hillel the post of Administrator at the under-construction Unitarian House was advertised and after a tough interview with John Rutherford, Ferd Corbeil, Ilse Wulf and Frances Morrison Agnes got the job she desperately wanted. “I first started I worked out of an office in the Para-Med building. People would call and say’ I have to be out of here by the end of March and I have nowhere to go’. They all wanted to see where they were going to live. Some wanted to face the Parkway, others wanted a Southern exposure so they would have sunlight for their African violets. I seemed to want a circular building that I could move around.” About Us • Spring/Summer 2014
“We admitted our first residents on the 30 th of March with the courtyard a sea of mud and a procession of moving vans parading through it. One day we had 10 move-ins.” Speaking of what it is that makes the House a home, Agnes had this to say. “It is the security that is provided here. They [the residents] feel that after they go to bed at night, if they do need help all they have to do is reach for the buzzer and there would be someone they could talk to, Agnes and Leslie Folland who could look after whatever their problems were. And that’s has continued through the years. ” Agnes met challenges with unfailing creativity, good sense and humour. She encouraged residents and staff to be involved in the activities of the House. And she began the tradition of parties, celebrations, fun and the opportunity to grow and learn. She set the tone. And it has continued for 30 years. Dr. Arlene Rosenbloom had some interesting comments about her 30 years at Unitarian House. She was just setting up her practice in 1984 and joined our team to provide weekly visits so residents wouldn’t have to go to her office for care. She says at first there were challenges for residents in feeling really comfortable with such a young doctor. It took time. One of the notable changes over the years is the shift from the paternalistic, ''the doctor controls everything' attitude to the current About Us • Spring/Summer 2014
model in which patients are partners in their medical care. And she noted that older people show gratitude for even small things. Over all these years Dr. Rosenbloom and our nursing staff have developed a team providing top-notch medical care with the personal touch. Vyvian and Audrey
Since day one they have been part of the fabric of the House. Vyvian, at 103, has wonderful memories of her 30 years at Unitarian House. She grew up in Manitoba with her sister Edwina, married, moved to Montreal and then to a sheep farm in Osgoode. There life included spinning the wool, knitting and weaving it as well as photography and gardening. On March 31, 1984 Vyvian and her husband, Donald, moved into an apartment and Edwina moved in next door. Vyvian instigated the building of the garden boxes and in the first season she and Edwina produced 200 tomatoes. With Margit Olscher and Vera Bailey, Vyvian developed and ran the Tuck Shop for about 20 years. During this time, Vyvian continued -3-
her photography, became the resident archivist and House librarian. It is thanks to her that so much of our history, in words and images, is available to us today. In the early 90s Vyvian began the 50/50 club that has brought winnings to many and has paid for many pieces of equipment and furnishings for the House. Last summer, Vyvian was serving up ice cream, as she has done for years, as a fund-raising (and tasty) event. Vyvian is still very involved in the goings-on at Unitarian House. Audrey was on staff when Unitarian House opened and has been part of the evolution of all things Unitarian House. And she has a wonderful memory, especially for residents over the years. Originally from Trinidad, Audrey goes home every two years to see her family and for Carnival. When asked what her favourite memories are, Audrey recalls this story: One Sunday afternoon, many years ago, one of the apartment residents had misplaced his dentures and thought perhaps they had fallen into the garbage which he had just put down the chute. He went to the garbage room behind the kitchen and climbed up to look inside the huge container. Somehow he over balanced and fell in and when he couldn't get out he started calling for help. But as we know, it's pretty quiet on Sundays so no one heard him. When Audrey went to the locker room across the hall as she was leaving at the end of her shift she heard him calling. It took the fire -4-
department to get him out. But he didn't find his dentures. And Audrey loves all the parties and celebrations over the years, especially the Halloween parties, where residents and staff come in costume. Church has New Believers (from 1985) 'Unitarian House on the Ottawa River Parkway had problems last week. A water main burst. It was on private property and would have to be repaired at the owner’s [Unitarian House] expense. Hiring a power shovel cost $2,000 a day. It could have taken days to find the break. Nobody knew where to dig. If the digging started where the water was gushing out it would take a lot to track it to the break in the pipe. And they didn’t know where the pipe was. It was put in years ago and the shape of the old neighbourhood has changed. Unitarian Church janitor Hans Tonn was willing to help. He said he had experience as a diviner, found a properly forked branch and started waving it over the large property. Meanwhile, at Unitarian House, Edwina Scott, who spent many years working a farm near Osgoode, said she had considerable success at divining, having found three wells on her property. She, too, found a proper branch and started walking over the property. Skeptics watched, often rolling their eyes skyward as they suppressed smirks. Almost smack in the middle of the parking lot, far from any sign of gushing water, Tonn and Scott stopped. Both sticks shivered and pointed down. The two diviners looked knowingly at each other and said: Dig there. No doubt about it.' The power shovel was brought in. Bingo. Right on the money. (Break in the main: Feb 27th; repaired: Feb. 28th)' About Us • Spring/Summer 2014
… a place for romance Over the years we have had a number of romances. Two have a particular prominence: John and Jackie 'In May 1982, Jackie Holzman came to a planning meeting for Unitarian House to provide technical advice from the Social Planning Council. Other people included Ferd Corbeil, Larry Egar, Werner Daeschel, Don Saxon and John Rutherford representing the Church on the Unitarian House board. Jackie was elected that fall to City Council where she persuaded Council to pay for a new sewer and water line to serve UHouse. Later she was honoured to cut the ribbon at the opening of Unitarian House along with Walter Turnbull and Lloyd Francis. In December, 1984 Rosalind Tosh and Geri Jackson, both board members of UHouse, suggested John take Jackie for lunch at Unitarian House and the rest is history. Their marriage ceremony was performed by Rev. Brian Kopke in 1987. They are now on the waiting list for a future placement at Unitarian House.' John Rutherford, Founder and past Board Member and Jackie Holzman, Supporter Frank and May In 1994 long-time residents May Denis and Frank Mallett were married in the courtyard. Chaplain Margaret Kopke, daughter of Rene and Don Saxon, officiated. Dorothy Smith, resident, was the pianist. Residents and staff arranged decorations and refreshments.
About Us • Spring/Summer 2014
The newly weds and their guests were served a wedding supper in the courtyard.
Frank and May continued to live here for many more years.
New Beginnings I moved back to Ottawa in 1990 and my first day of job hunting brought me to Unitarian House. There was a distinguished looking lady with a great smile at the reception desk that day; Agnes Fennell. When I was the Activity Director of Starwood Nursing Home I had met Agnes at the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and I knew from that introduction that this lady had a sense of humour and so my new beginning started. As Activity Co-coordinator in a job-share position with Carole Spooner, I also tended to fill in wherever I was needed, dietary, nursing, reception and housekeeping. I remember telling Agnes that I had always wanted to be a nurse. my dream was to one day have my own seniors’ home so I could run it the way I thought a home should be run. Unitarian House was the place that did things the right way; people come first at Unitarian House. Agnes asked me what was holding me back from my dream, so another new beginning started; my nursing career. When I graduated I was hired by the Civic Geriatric Assessment Unit. To this day I still have contact with their teams of specialists. After two years with the GAU I spent one year with Community Care -5-
Access Centre (CCAC) doing full time evenings in the east end of Ottawa. This experience taught me to be confident, articulate, detail oriented and a creative problem-solver who can color outside the lines when it is needed. It was while I was working with CCAC that I received a phone call from one of the Unitarian House residents telling me that Agnes Fennell was thinking of retiring and Oris Retallack would be taking over as the Administrator. I sent in my resume right away and so I started another new beginning. I was hired as the Director of Care and started this position on January 2nd 1998. Two days later the Ice Storm hit with 80mm of snow, freezing rain and ice pellets and Oris and I had our trial by ICE. My current beginning started in 2006 when Oris started grooming me for my next adventure; the position of Executive Director which started June 1st 2007. I have seen a lot of changes to Unitarian House since that date. The one thing that never changes at Unitarian House is the feeling of belonging and being home. Christina O'Neil, Executive Director
Our Japanese Connection In 2000, thanks to Joan Kabayama, a former resident, Unitarian House received an invitation for two Board members to visit Osaka and Tokyo to participate in panel presentations about seniors' housing and supportive care. Frances Morrison, a founding member of Unitarian House and Oris Retallack, Executive Director, were selected to spend 13 days in Japan as guests of this Senior Life Planning. -6-
One of our current residents, Naoko, came from Japan. She originates from Hokkaido, in the north of Japan so she was not upset by the stories of Canadian winters. Naoko's first love was teaching and she practices and teaches Ikebana, constantly beautifying the House with stunning flower arrangements. Naoko is a wonderful stained glass artist creating special pieces you will see all around Unitarian House. She says she is able to reconcile the conflict between the formality and rigidity of both origami and stained glass with the freedom and individuality of Ikebana. With her love of beauty and her generous spirit, Naoko cares for the House … through her gardening, origami, stained glass and Ikebana.
Bless this House. Just inside the portico at Unitarian house is a small brass plaque embossed with the words of the song “Bless this House”. One of our early residents, Stafford Salmon, had a beautiful voice. He sang this song at all formal gatherings at Unitarian House, establishing it as the 'official' song of the House. “Bless this House” is particularly poignant for the Unitarian House community. The structure that shelters us all is our house. As we sing it together “Bless this House” becomes a prayer to our Lord to confirm the friendship and security we all enjoy here. We sing it at all special events.
Resident Advocates Over the years residents have taken on causes and lobbied for changes that have had a significant effect on those living at Unitarian House.
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1985 ~ Hildegard Giese, Florence Leduc and many others residents lobbied the city for traffic lights at the corner of Richmond Road and Cleary Avenue. They mobilized residents and the River Parkway day care staff with the children to demonstrate the need. The lights were installed. In honour of the owner of Bytown Boilers, a local business that was very supportive our efforts, several residents formed a song-anddance group, calling themselves the Bytown Boiler Belles. Dorothy Percy wrote a song for them. Here is the first verse: We are the Bytown Boilers, and we are full of steam. We live at Unitarian House, and ain’t quite what we seem. We may be past the fifty mark; it’s not yet all downhill. In fact our lives are all lit up because we had the will To tackle City Council. And Regional as well. We told them we’d have traffic lights Or they could go to …blazes. Again in the 90s, when the city threatened to remove the lights, residents and staff attended a meeting of the city council to demonstrate their importance. The lights remain. 1988 ~ Rita Brown lobbied the NCC for wheelchair access to the parkway. The ramp was built leading from the southeast edge of the property behind the mall. 2009 ~ Neilson Swan lobbied the city to install a bus shelter on the northwest corner of Richmond Road at Cleary Avenue. When About Us • Spring/Summer 2014
the new condo was built on that corner, it was included in the project. Board Presidents 1980 – 2014 Keith Dowd; Ferd Corbeil; Frances Morrison; Donald Saxon; John Rutherford; Gerry Conger; Garry Armstrong; Maurice Murphy; Don McDiarmid; Tom Dent; John Rayner; Bob Armstrong; Tom Dent; David Curry. Staff through the years Through the years staff comes and goes. However, at Unitarian House many stay for a long time. Our current staff includes many who have worked here for over 5 years: Audrey Thomas (1984), Kim Drew (1985), Bev Ross (1986), Danny Brisebois (1989), Alison Munro (1990 ), Shurmin Jacobs (1991), Jennifer Maroun (1993), Helen Basa (1994), Christina O'Neil (1997), Lynn McAllister (1999), Cam Kitchen (1999), Blandine Uwimana (2003); Sue Huddlestone (2003); L Gauthier, Sara Deschatelets. Lavir Chea, (2005); Jacqueline Martin-Mondesir, Janine Rhodes (2006); Larissa Kluew, Nadene Keon (2007); Susan Ambrose, Ramani Weerakonda, Jill Simard, Phyllis Walsh, Emily Curanio, Connie Agmalia (2008); Nelia Velasco, Heike Moeller, Ana Kluew, Hoang Doang ( 2009) Our thanks and appreciation to all the current
staff under the leadership of Christina, Nadene, Blandine, Danny, and Lynda. It is our staff who ensure the Unitarian House dream thrives.
Taken by Frances Morrison from her hot air balloon ride on her 80th birthday. -7-
It is about pronouns. At Uni House you are uniquely ‘you’, not just one of a ‘they’ or a ‘them’, but you, in charge of your own life, and a valuable part of ‘we’. Jill, Founder and former Board member
A word about our donors: Throughout our first wonderful 30 years, our donors have provided the dollars to ensure we could enhance and upgrade the building and amenities, meet the requirements of assistance to seniors in need. Thank you all for your continuing generosity and support. You are a big part of our community. At Unitarian House you get nothing but
Thanks to the following who have contributed to this issue: Tom Dent, Christina O'Neil, Sue Williams, Beryl Allport, Lynn Harris, Lynda Gauthier, Bob Armstrong, residents, staff, Board members and Founders. Please join us: Our next big event is the Annual Fundraising Dinner on May 13th. Our guest speaker is Shirley Greenberg speaking on: 'Living Life and Giving Back' Enjoy the silent auction and a wonderful evening. Tickets are $130 with a donation receipt given for $100. Call Jessica at 613-722-6690 for tickets.
From the editor: This is a very special issue for me. In 1983 I worked for ParaMed Health Services and was involved in developing the successful proposal for the staffing of Unitarian House for the first 3 years, as was required by CMHC. I oversaw this contract until I was hired by Agnes Fennell in 1988 to be Director of Care. After nine years, when Agnes retired, I became Executive Director until I retired in 2007. Now I am a member of the Board of Governors. Unitarian House is a second home to me and I just keep recycling, it seems. My life has been truly blessed because of the people I have known here and the experiences I have had. So producing this edition of About Us has been a wonderful walk down memory lane. I hope you enjoyed this look at Unitarian House past, present and a bit of future, too. Oris Retallack, Board member -8-
“We Call It Home” Unitarian House of Ottawa About Us is published twice each year, a Spring/Summer issue and a Fall/Winter edition. The purpose of these two newsletters is to keep friends of Unitarian House informed of the ongoing activities and needs of our home, The President: David Curry The Executive Director: Christina O’Neil The Editor: Oris Retallack You may contact us at: Unitarian House of Ottawa 20 Cleary Avenue Ottawa, Ontario K2A 3Z9 Tel: Fax: Email: Web: Facebook:
613-722-6690 613-722-6695 [email protected]
Privacy Statement: Unitarian House does not sell, or make available, information about donors, supporters, volunteers, residents or staff without the consent of the individual(s). Personal information is maintained in a secure database and is reviewed annually. If you do not wish to receive future mailings, please notify us at the address provided.
About Us • Spring/Summer 2014