Catherine Gretton was not easily intimidated. In Sudbury in 1978, when her husband was a company representative on the negotiating committee during a long strike at the Inco nickel mines, the union staged a rally and started making its way to her home. Worried, her husband Wally called to warn her to stay away from the windows when the mob arrived. Instead, Catherine dashed to the front porch with her camera and snapped photos that were later scooped up by the national papers. Her explanation? “They came for attention and I gave it to them!”
Born in 1928 in Hamilton, Catherine grew up as an only child during the Depression. Those early years had two lasting effects on her, said her son John – she remained frugal and friendly all her life. “With just my brother Tom and me, our family was small but it was never lonely because she loved to make big meals, play bridge and entertain. On Christmas Eve we often had parties for 50 or more.”
A graduate of Delta Collegiate and Hamilton Business College, Catherine worked for the Hamilton Harbor Commission and later as a real estate agent. For several years she volunteered on the Board of the YWCA and had a special interest in the cause of children and battered women. “She wrote many angry letters of protest to the Nestle company when it promoted formula over breast milk in Third World countries,” John recalls.
Catherine and Wally, who married in 1956, shared the belief that involving children in organized sports develops character and confidence. Wally played water polo and was a competitive swimmer, coached by Jimmy Thompson. He felt it had created opportunities he might not have had otherwise. Tom explained that both his parents wanted to help an organization that would give deprived children a similar chance. Catherine’s bequest to the Hamilton Community Foundation has been placed in the Ontario Endowment for Children and Youth in Recreation Fund.
Excerpt from 2000-2001 Annual Report