A lifelong resident of Winchester and Newington, Helen Mae Summers passed away peacefully on Fri., May 6, 2011 at the Woodland Villa in Long Sault, where she had lived since Dec. 15, 2009.
Helen was born in Mountain Township on Dec. 12, 1919, to Mina Elizabeth Mallory and Jesse Walker. Both parents worked for John E. Henderson, Jesse as farm manager, and Elizabeth as housekeeper. Helen was only eight when she lost her father. Helen’s mother continued as housekeeper; therefore, when the Henderson farm was traded for a dairy in Winchester, the family moved to the village. It was the Henderson Dairy which Helen remembered as home, and where her job as a teenager was delivering milk with a horse-drawn wagon.
In February 1939, Helen married Harry Shea Summers, and together they had nine children: Barbara, Marilyn, Garry, Sharon, Gloria, Steven, Wayne, Garnet, and Cynthia. The couple’s first home was on Highway 31, south of Williamsburg at the Tollgate Road where they stayed for about six years. From the beginning of her married life, Helen worked along side her husband in his businesses. First, it was poultry and Helen dressed poultry and sold it on Saturdays at Ottawa’s Byward Market. Then, it was a lunch bar/convenience store/pool hall in Cardinal, a short-lived venture after which it was back to Williamsburg and an egg-grading business. This business stuck, but took root only in Newington which became the family’s home in 1950. When the St. Lawrence Seaway was being built, Helen’s husband invested in dump trucks which took him away from the egg-grading business. Many aspects of running the business fell to Helen including collecting eggs from farmers, loading and unloading crates of eggs, and selling eggs to walk-in customers.
Raising and providing for a family of nine was not easy. Fortunately, Helen received much help and support from her family. Her mother, Elizabeth, was a constant source of hands-on help in much the same way that Helen, in turn, gave back to her children in later years. Her sister, Pearl, and her husband, J. Carl Burd, provided support to several of Helen’s children over many years. And, in 1955, when sick for many months after the birth of Cynthia, Helen asked for and received help from her brother, Charles, and his wife, Mabel Porteous who agreed to care for the baby until Helen recovered. But, what started out as a short-term ‘foster care’ situation became a permanent commitment because Charles and Mabel couldn’t give up their new daughter.
After many years of helping in the family business, Helen hired out as an employee. From about 1960 until 1984, in no particular order, Helen worked for Kraft at their Newington and Williamstown cheese factories, as a sales clerk for Reitmans in Cornwall, as a factory worker in one of Cornwall’s cotton mills, as an interpreter at one of the houses at Upper Canada Village, and in food service at Hilltop Restaurant, Upper Canada Golf Course, and the Bavarian restaurant on Highway #2.
The driving force behind Helen’s work was her children. It was always to help her children realize their dreams. Whether it was to continue their education, become qualified in a chosen field or start their own family, she did whatever it took to give them choices. When she moved back to Winchester in 1984, she had time to take on more volunteer work. She was always a supporter of her church in Newington with physical labour, contributions of food for social events and, with her longtime friend, Florence Armstrong, putting fresh flowers in the church every Sunday. In 1984, Helen started to work with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to raise funds for research. Over the next 22 years Helen and her team of captains and canvassers collected a large sum of money. In June 2006 Helen was recognized publicly for her contributions to this cause.
She formed strong friendships and nourished them for life. Her passions were her children and their children, volunteering herself to help others to the best of her abilities, gardening, and homemaking.
She is survived by her children, Barbara Summers of Ormond, Marilyn (Garry) Wilson of Lunenburg, Sharon Summers of Ottawa, Gloria Marshall of Iroquois, Steven (Jenny) of Winchester Springs, Wayne (Myra) of Newington, Garnet (Carroll) of Iroquois, and Cynthia Summers (the late Randy Moore) of Winchester; her siblings, Pearl (the late Carl) Burd of Niagara Falls, and Ralph (Myrna) Walker of Walkerton; and her sister-in-law and lifelong friend, Pearl Summers (the late Clare) of Winchester. She was predeceased by her husband in 1972, her mother in 1983, her son, Garry, in 1998, and her brother, Charles, in 2003. She will be fondly remembered by 23 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. She is also survived by nieces and nephews.
Friends called at the Marsden and McLaughlin Funeral Home in Williamsburg on Mon., May 9. The funeral service was held at Newington Wesleyan Church on Tues., May 10 with Rev. Thurland Brown officiating and Rev. Christina Shaver participating. Family members contributed eulogies, a poem reading, and singing of Amazing Grace. The pallbearers were grandchildren Angela Wilson, Eric Summers, Lyndon Johnston, Brentley Summers, Tyler J. Summers, and Bobbie Jo Deschamps. Interment will be at Hillcrest Cemetery in Newington.
Donations to Newington Wesleyan Church would be appreciated by the family.