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. 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 (almost unheard of for young women at that time)! 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 the University of Toronto, she returned to Smith Falls where she started teaching in a one-room school house.
Around the same time Elise starts teaching, a young man named Clifford who was also from Smith Falls and whose last name just so happens to be Curtis, returns to his hometown 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 professional and volunteer careers. Both were involved in Chalmers United Church, local and national politics. Elise was a long-time leader at the YWCA and Clifford served on the 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 them 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 license! I had so much fun with Grammie that starting at the age of 5, 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, TVO and good table manners. She also taught me the importance of clear language, grace and the magic of homemade apple sauce.
And while kind and generous, Elsie was no wallflower and didn’t suffer fools. 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 the 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 my personal and professional life. This site and my professional work are a testament to the impact she has had on me and an effort to share her wisdom with the rest of the world. Thank you for being a part of Elsie’s legacy of service.