Mary Elsie was born to Ida and Charles McBride in 1903 in the small town of Smith’s Falls Ontario. The first of four daughters, the family lived a comfortable and rewarding life as Charles was the town’s only dentist.
From the get-go, Elsie was a mover and shaker. She was an energetic child that did well at school. She was also a bit of a mover and shaker. By the age of 14 she was running the Sunday School at her church. By the age of 16 she was teaching tennis, and getting paid for it! By the age of 17 Elsie got on a train to Toronto and attended teacher’s college. 17! Elsie was fearless. After a successful stint at U of T she returned to Smith Falls where she started teaching in a one-room school house.
Meanwhile, Clifford (who’s last name just so happens to be Curtis) also returns to Smith Falls after finishing up his PhD in economics at the University of Chicago. As fate would have it, Clifford and Elsie connect. Soon after Elise and Clifford fall in love. And not long after that, Clifford and Elise get married and start their new life together in Kingston Ontario.
In Kingston, they build a happy home, marriage and careers. Both were involved in Chalmers United Church. Elise was a long time leader at the YWCA and Clifford served on City council and was mayor for 8 years. Together they built a life and marriage that I respect so much. Along the way, they had Carolyn, Robert and Kathie who between them gave Elsie and Clifford 7 grandkids of which I am #4.
I LOVED my grandmother. A lot. She was fun, smart, energetic and could do just about anything. She even let me drive before I got a licence! I had so much fun with Grammie that I would spend most of my summers in Kingston with Elise and Clifford and then just Elsie. We would talk about things that were of interest to her and me. She opened my eyes to the Group of Seven, the importance of clear language and the magic of home-made apple sauce.
And while kind and generous she was no wallflower and didn’t suffer fools well. Growing up, my parents’ generation referred to her as The Colonel. It was a sign of respect for what she had accomplished, her circle of influence and her get-things-done attitude.
It was during one of our many summer conversations that Elsie did a mic drop on me with four simple words. At the time I heard them but didn’t fully appreciate the impact they would have on me. These four words have stuck with me since and have grown to become the cornerstone of personal and professional life.
As I turn 50 in 2020, it’s time for me to pick up Elsie’s torch and share Elsie’s wisdom. And while I will share them with my eventual grandkids, I thought the entire world should know the power of Elsie’s teaching. It is a pleasure to welcome you to foursimplewords.ca.