Hamilton lost a remarkable citizen recently – one whose name will never make the front page, but whose generosity will have an impact on her community forever.
This friend of the Foundation – we’ll call her Ruth – was a woman of modest means: an elementary school teacher who grew up in Hamilton’s north end during the Depression. Unmarried, she chose to live modestly throughout her life and gave herself very little despite being a shrewd investor. But she did indulge her passion for gardening, her love of Aboriginal art, and her desire to give back to the community.
HCF first came to know her when she began making gifts to the Hamilton Spectator Summer Camp Fund in the early 1980s. It gave her immense pleasure to know that a child would benefit from the camp experience thanks to her annual donation. With her lifelong interest in the welfare of children, as both a school teacher and a swim coach, Ruth was one of the first donors to HCF’s Ontario Endowment for Children and Youth in Recreation Fund and a regular contributor to the Community Fund.
But her gifts were always anonymous.
Late in life, Ruth developed MS and she faced those new physical challenges with good spirit, creativity and determination, continuing to swim regularly and even finding a way to enjoy gardening when unable to kneel. She kept her mind active with crosswords and she was masterful at knitting. It was always a pleasure to spend time with her, surrounded by her beautiful paintings, sculptures and masks.
Her sudden death in 2009 saddened us all. But the fund established in 2010 with a bequest from her estate – directed to the needs of children – will honour her remarkable spirit in perpetuity.
Ruth was an intensely private person and we know that her preference was to remain anonymous in an article like this. It is a fundamental HCF value to respect that wish for privacy.
Excerpt from 2010-2011 Annual Report
Caroline Stoakes was born on July 9, 1914 in Nottingham, England. She attended university on a scholarship before working at Boot’s Chemists. During the Second World War, Caroline met Harry Alvey, a Hamilton lad stationed in England with the Royal Canadian Air Force. They married there in 1944 and returned to Canada, living first in Galt and later in Hamilton. Caroline and Harry traveled extensively during their 55-year marriage – from Hawaii, China and Africa, to Australia, Greece and Turkey.
Caroline had a keen interest in history, geography and current affairs. She read voraciously and enjoyed opera and classical music. A lifetime member of the Red Cross, she also volunteered with the Salvation Army. She was a faithful annual donor to the Hamilton Community Foundation Spectator Summer Camp Fund for children. When she died in May of 2001, Caroline left a generous bequest to Hamilton Community Foundation, along with gifts to the War Amps, the Salvation Army and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Excerpt from 2001-2002 Annual Report
Ike Ahmed was thinking about the past, the present and the future when he created the Ike and Shahnaz Ahmed Foundation Fund at Hamilton Community Foundation last November.
The past was his blissful 36-year marriage to Shahnaz, who passed away suddenly in April 2005 at the age of 60, and Ike’s desire to honour her memory, their life together, and their mutual love of Hamilton. The present is the community need he sees: hunger, poverty and unemployment, and the arts and cultural organizations that contribute so much to quality of life. The future is his plan that the fund will grow when part of his estate is designated to it.
Ike is a well-known figure in Hamilton: a very successful financial planner; a generous and active patron of the arts, and a community volunteer through the Downtown Rotary Club, St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, and other organizations. His journey to Hamilton from his birthplace of India came by way of Karachi, Pakistan, then to Vienna, Austria, for university, with jobs that followed in Sweden, Denmark and then Berlin.
It was in Berlin that he met Shahnaz, who was German but took a Pakistani name when she married Ike. Ike was transferred to Hamilton and they began to build their life here. Ike and Shahnaz were famously close and Ike says they literally never spent one day apart in all their years of marriage. Pictures of the two of them, often in formal dress at community events, adorn the walls of Ike’s home and his corner office at the Standard Life Building.
“What we achieved, we achieved here in Hamilton, and Shahnaz helped me every step of the way,” Ike explains. “I’m glad we settled here 38 years ago. I thought of Hamilton Community Foundation for this fund, and for part of my eventual estate, because there are good people who run the Foundation. They will make decisions about how it is to be disbursed, knowing what my interests are.”
Excerpt from 2006-2007 Annual Report
Isabella Flora Frid was the daughter of a country doctor and sister of the founders of the McGregor Clinic. She was renowned for her handcrafted Christmas crackers and for her magnificent gardens in Waterdown. A charter member and former President of the Garden Club in Hamilton, Mrs. Frid enjoyed its activities up to her death in her ninety-eighth year. She graduated from New York’s Roosevelt Hospital and nursed overseas during the First World War.
The widow of H.P. Frid of Frid Construction, she was Hamilton Foundation Board member in the 1960s.
Excerpt from 1987-1988 Annual Report
Vera Elwin, born at the turn of the century in Dymock – a tiny agricultural village in England – was in her early teens when she emigrated to Canada with her parents. Her father, an insurance agent, settled the family in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Although she contracted polio as a child, she was a tall, slender, health -conscious woman who lived to the age of 95.
When she married for the first time at age 65, Mrs. Elwin had already supported herself for years working as a secretary, first in Montreal and later in the U.S. Her husband, George Elwin, had been vice-president of finance at Stelco and sat on the first Board of Directors of Hamilton Community Foundation. A sister-in-law, Jean Bendall of Ottawa, describes Mrs. Elwin as self-sufficient, clever and extremely loyal to her family. Mrs. Elwin had a lively interest in current and community affairs and indulged a whimsy for astrology. She kept her own apartment on the mountain and drove her deep green Mercedes Benz until 18 months before her death.
Many individuals and organizations were remembered in her will including the Foundation.
Excerpt from 1995-1996 Annual Report
Mary Drynan, born in 1902 in Woodstock, Ont., had decided on a career in nursing when she enrolled at the Wellesley Hospital in Toronto. Before her studies were completed, however, she accepted a proposal of marriage from the dashing William Drynan, a businessman employed at Canadian Canners. The couple settled in Ancaster and the family grew to include three children – Bill, George and Alice. Daughter Alice Lundon remembers how her mother turned her considerable intelligence and energy to community work with the Junior League and a boys’ orphanage. She was also an avid reader, antique collector and a gardener with a penchant for roses and peonies. The Foundation received a bequest from her estate. This gift reflects the long-standing interest both she and her husband, Lt.-Col. William Innes Drynan, had in the Foundation. Lt.-Col. Drynan, who was elected Foundation president in 1968, also served on the Board of Directors.
Excerpt from 1958-1996 Annual Report
Alphonse Dirse came to Canada in the late 1940s, having left his native Lithuania to avoid the Russia invasion. Born in 1913, the eldest of five children, he completed his schooling at 15, worked on the family farm and served in the army before making his decision to emigrate. Eventually, he found employment in the mines of Northern Manitoba and worked underground until a mining accident intervened. He then moved to Ontario and finally settled in Hamilton where he worked in a factory until his retirement in 1978. To keep busy, he continued to work whenever possible, usually on the Hamilton docks during the shipping season.
Upon his death in 1989, the Foundation learned of his bequest, a gift for general charitable purposes in the community.
Excerpt from 1991-1992 Annual Report
Edward Francis Dennee is remembered by his many friends as a warm and gregarious man, one who was always concerned about the needs of others. Born in Hamilton in the early 1920s, Frank Dennee served in Burma during the Second World War. Later, he continued his education and worked in finance at Stelco. Mr. Dennee traveled extensively and developed a discrimination taste for opera, dance and theater. He was a well-known bridge player and a valued member of the Board of Players’ Guild.
He died in 1993 and, without any immediate family to consider, left his estate to friends, and to several local organizations involved in the arts, health care, social services and animal welfare. The Foundation also received a gift.
Excerpt from 1994-1995 Annual Report
Mary Day graduated from McMaster University and worked with National Trust in their real estate division throughout her business career. She lived on Fairleigh Avenue South with her parents, Edwin and Maple, and greatly enjoyed her English gardens and her cats. Miss Day was a devoted member of the Church of St. Peter and Past President of the Y.W.C.A.’s “Happy to Serve” Club, a group of senior business and professional women.
Excerpt from 1990-1991 Annual Report
Originally from a farm near Mt. Forest, Ont., Mildred Leanna Gilstorf was a physician’s house keeper before her marriage to Walter Danby, a Hamilton homebuilding contractor. Together, they built a substantial trust fund for causes of deep personal concern, including severely burned children, church and missionary work, and health problems such as arthritis, cystic fibrosis and mental disabilities. The Walter and Mildred Danby Fund supports several named organizations working in these areas. Following her husband’s death in 1978, Mrs. Danby stayed on in her Florence Street home, which Mr. Danby had built some 60 years earlier, until she passed away in 1988.
Excerpt from 1988-1989 Annual Report