Evelyn Cuthbert


I contend that the gift of friendship, housed in the treasured personalities of gentle and beautiful people, is the richest gift that one can be given. Today, many of us are gathered here because we have received that gift richly in the person of Ev Cuthbert. We are here to celebrate a beautiful and gifted life, a lady whose regal bearing, kindly spirit and gifts had enriched us greatly. Evelyn Cuthbert will not be forgotten. Her kindly influence on our lives will live on in us and have already affected our attitudes and actions. I think it was Samuel Johnson who once said, 'I have been made rich through my friendships." We, too, can echo that sentiment today because of our friendship with Evelyn Cuthbert.

To Evelyn's family, nephews Douglas and Cameron Bruce and families, and other relatives and friends, we extend to you our heartfelt sympathies and offer our prayers that you may be comforted and strengthened in this time of loss.

Evelyn Cuthbert was born in Ottawa. She was educated here and after graduation joined the Canadian Construction Association where she worked for 41 years before her retirement a few years ago. In the early days of the Association, Evelyn was the only woman who attended the provincial and national meetings. When she took a number of courses at North Western University in Chicago she was the only woman in those early classes. However, there was no mistaking Evelyn's impact on the Association and her pioneering work in helping to blaze new trails for women's participation in the workplace.

On her 25th anniversary at the Canadian Construction Association her colleagues presented her with a gift and also a poem that expressed their love and respect, and, I might add, their acknowledgment as to who was running the Association. Here are just a few verses from a lengthy tribute to Evelyn. The poem was called "Our Miss Cuthbert".

Who back in days beyond recall
When CA first got on the ball
Who was their fetch and carry-all?
Our Miss Cuthbert!

Who chases members for their fees,
While they produce them on their knees
Whose technique always seems to please?
Our Miss Cuthbert!

Whose bite is even worse than her bark,
Who was weaned on Cutty Sark
Who on Arnprior made her mark?
Our Miss Cuthbert!

Who made plants grow a foot a day?
Goes to Chicago in order to play
Who makes us walk upstairs for our pay?
Our Miss Cuthbert!

Many of you may not have known that Evelyn's father came to Canada from Scotland and became head gardener at Government House during Earl Gray's tenure as Governor General. At the same time her mother, also an immigrant from Scotland, was hired as head cook at Government House. They were married and lived on Noel Street. When Evelyn was born they named her for the Governor General's daughter Eve-lyn, pronounced "Evening".

Some people at the church remember Evelyn entertaining some of the MacKay Church groups with graphic drawings and photographs of the Governor General's grounds showing the improvements and additions to the stately old building and the gardens as well. Thyra Hudson told me that she first met Evelyn while singing carols with the C.G.I.T. and Explorers on her parents' porch on Noel Street. She met her again singing carols in her father's room at the Perley Hospital the year he died. The church had left Mr. Cuthbert a narcissus plant, as it did for a number of years with the sick and shut-ins of the congregation. Evelyn was so impressed that she crave the girls a large cookie tin filled with treats. This gift of cookies became a Christmas tradition often accompanied by a donation: "To the Girls' Program".

Evelyn was an extremely talented person, particularly in the area of choral music and individual musical performance. She became the paid soprano soloist at Dominion-Chalmers United Church and served that congregation for a number of years. In the mid 30's she won the "Gold Medal" at the Canadian National Musical Expedition. And was one of the principal performers in a Choral Group that went to Wales to participate in "Eidsteidfodd" - a musical festival that drew participants from all over the world.

Her musical talents gave her and others many pleasant hours of delight. She not only sang in choirs or performed as a soloist, but lent her voice to many special choral events over the years, singing to distinguished audiences comprised of Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers.

After her stint at Dominion-Chalmers United Church, Evelyn though that she would would like to return to her roots, New Edinburgh, and to that end she joined the choir of MacKay United. She was a most welcomed addition to MacKay's choir and brought a special talent that helped immensely. Evelyn's quiet nature and easy-going manner made her a favourite with the other members and the Choir Director.

I remember one incident where the Choir Director, Mr. Paul MacMlillan, was somewhat taken aback one afternoon just before the choir was to perform. Paul was looking for a comb to comb his hair, evidently that was some time ago, and thinking the purse sitting on the table in the choir room was his wife's he began to rifle through the purse to find a comb. Ev was sitting nearby and watched with curiosity and a twinkle in her eye as Paul searched for a comb in her purse. At the right moment, just when Paul was in the middle of his search she said, "What are you doing in my purse?" Paul jumped back in embarrassment saying, "That is June's". "No, it isn't", said Ev, with a big grin on her face. "That is my purse and get your paws out of it". We all had a great laugh. I still love that story, and Ev's cute little grin.

We enjoyed Ev's participation at MacKay and I'm sure I speak for Paul, and the Choir, when I say that Evelyn Cuthbert had served our church with great loyalty, commitment and dedication.

One of Evelyn's great loves was her sorority, Beta Sigma Phi. Beta Sigma Phi is a non-educational sorority that was formed by Walter W. Ross in 1931, during the Depression. Its purpose was to bring women together and expose them to a social, cultural and educational climate that was not available in those difficult times. Most important there was a need for friendship and support from other women. It did not take long before Beta Sigma Phis were helping others.

Over the years Beta Sigma Phi has changed with the changing times. From raising funds for War bonds in the 1940's to promoting sisterhood and community life in the 50's, 60's and 70's to the support of charities, health research groups, hunger projects, and other worthwhile causes up to the present.

I was amazed to learn that Beta Sigma Phi is the largest Greek letter group in the world, boasting a membership of more than 200,000 members. It's not a college sorority, but an organization that is open to members of all ages and educational backgrounds. The sisterhood constantly redefines itself through diversity and vitality of its members who share their ideas, talents and enthusiasm in order to promote friendship, fellowship and the good of the community.

Evelyn Cuthbert was very much a part of Beta Sigma Phi. She dedicated a large part of her time and energy to the promotion of friendship and to the many causes of the organization. Bessie Russell, a long-time friend of Evelyn's, made me aware of the high involvement of Evelyn in Beta Sigma Phi. She was a life member, and President of every chapter of the organization in turn. She was promoted to the Order of the Rose, and a member of the Silver Circle, President of the Ottawa City Council 1961-62; Co-Chair of the Ottawa Centennial Convention. In June, 1997 she received the International Achievement Award.

Evelyn Cuthbert best exemplified the principles and goals of Beta Sigma Phi.

Many of you are aware that Eve was a very talented crafts person, and her speciality was needlework. Bessie Russell told me of two very beautiful pieces that she did, one, an arrangement of yellow roses and the other a sweet little girl reading wearing a bright dress. These were well crafted and are highly prized.

She was an avid gardener And reference to her growing flowers one foot long in the poem I read at the beginning is in reference to her long recognized ability to grow plants. She came by this easily as her father, as was mentioned, was the gardener at Government House.

Ev loved to travel and in her early retirement days, and before, she took many trips abroad. She was extremely fond of dogs, and doted on her own pet dog that she had for years. I recall that she always inquired after Buddy, our dog.

Evelyn Cuthbert lived an extraordinarily productive and good life. Talented and willing, Evelyn brought much to her work, her friends and her faith.

It is with her faith that I wish to close this celebration of Evelyn's life. Evelyn knew her Lord and knew how to serve Him. She was appreciative of all the gifts that God had given her and wished only to give something back to her community and church. She knew, also, that she was blessed with good family, good friends and a supportive community of faith. It was what sustained her and how she sustained others. We will always remember the seemingly quiet woman whose regal frame and natural good looks made her a hit among friends and strangers alike.

We will remember, too, the faith she shared with us, a faith seasoned with service and dedication to her Lord. We want to remember and give thanks for these special gifts and special moments.

Evelyn, like all good Christians, lived with the promise that God, in Christ, has prepared a place for us. Jesus' promise was familiar news to Evelyn. She heard it many times and knew it to be the heart and soul of her faith and life. Now, as we gather to celebrate her life, we gather also to give God most humble and hearty thanks for her life and work, and for the hope that is in us, that Christ Jesus died for us and for our salvation.

Praise be to God.

SC Alder