Realtor George Brown, 100, served as elder at local church
It would take an eternal optimist to launch a successful real estate business on the cusp of the Great Depression.
George Edmund Brown was that man.
The self-employed realtor, artist and photographer died Oct. 14, 2000 at Kipling Acres Nursing Home. He was 100.
Brown sold hundreds of homes in The Kingsway during his 45-year career. George E. Brown Real Estate was a fixture in the community, even from its humble beginnings as a two-room office in 1930. He retired his business to his brother Jack in 1975. Today, it lives on as Brown-Century 21.
Brown never lost his passion for real estate, related his granddaughter, Karen Craig, adding he'd routinely and unabashedly ask his visitors what they paid for their home.
"He was so gifted and so very skilled in real estate," she smiled. "It was his calling, his service in the community. Even in his last days, he'd still dream about it. He never stopped selling houses."
Brown's clientele grew steadily through referrals and repeat business, his daughter, Donna Siddall, a registered nurse, recalled. His calling card became his ever-present - but never new - Cadillac.
"My father was known for his Cadillacs," she said. "He'd drive me and my girlfriends to Lambton-Kingsway (Junior Middle) School in this silver grey Cadillac. It was a huge monster of a thing."
President of the Toronto Real Estate Board in 1948, the father of two became one of only 25 people to hold an honourary life membership on the board.
Despite meeting people regularly as a real estate agent, name recollection wasn't Brown's forté. But the longstanding elder of Kingsway Lambton United Church soon found a ready remedy for his memory, his daughter laughed.
"Whenever he would greet a couple at the church door on Sundays, he would always say to the husband, 'Is this your daughter?' The women were always very flattered."
Sense of humour remembered
Brown's sense of humour often extended to family outings.
"Every Sunday, our family would have dinner at The Old Mill," Siddall related. "Near the end of the meal, dad would always call over the waitress and ask for an Alka Seltzer to tease her. We'd die of embarrassment."
Brown and his wife Eva (nee Cranfield) were married for 62 years, before her death in 1994. Incredibly, the almost-Valentine baby (born Feb. 13) died on his wife's birthday.
He served as president of York Bible Class in 1928-29 where every Sunday, 1,500 men would meet in the largest class of its kind in Canada.
He became a master of Dufferin Lodge in 1935, earning his 60-year service pin five years ago.
Brown earned his first paycheque delivering groceries on horse and wagon for 25 cents a week. His father Nicholas ran Brown Brothers grocery at the corner of Queen and Bathurst streets.
"His family lived above the store, with the horse stables out back," Siddall said. "We always heard how his father was approached by Mr. Loblaws to go into business. But he didn't take him up on it."
In his youth, Brown dreamed of becoming a medical doctor or a missionary, Craig said.
She and her husband Al co-founded Living Rock Ministries, a Hamilton outreach for street youth 15 years ago. Working with vulnerable youth is a constant reminder of the positive role involved grandparents can play in a child's life, she reflected.
Craig recalls watching 'Ed Sullivan' in Brown's den during weekly Sunday visits to her grandparents. Today, Craig is recruiting seniors to act as surrogate grandparents to help support her youth clients.
"I work with street-involved youth, many of whom don't have grandparents," said Craig, who eulogized her grandfather at his funeral. "My grandparents gave me unconditional love. They took a total interest in what we were doing. They were both very attentive and encouraging."
Craig laughs when she considers her chosen career path.
"When I was a little girl my Grandpa used to tell me one day I'd be his real estate secretary," Craig said. "Thankfully, he got out of real estate when I went into social work."
While some seniors admonish 'the golden years', the ice cream-loving Brown embraced becoming a centenarian. The confirmed 'shirt and tie' man insisted on wearing a dress jacket over his track pants at the nursing home.
"He'd always say he was living in a very nice hotel when he lived in Kipling Acres," Craig recalled. "You'd realize how incredibly positive a person he was."
Brown encouraged his real estate colleagues in an optimistic 1925 memo.
"Another year gone?" he wrote. "Yes, but why worry? There is every indication that 1926 will be a bigger and better year and believe me, the fellow who is up to his ears in the thing he wants to do will be the happiest man in the world... The success of this year depends on you and I. Are you going to fall down? No. Let us work together in harmony and make our failures of the past, stepping stones to success."
Brown also leaves his son Peter, son-in-law David, grandchildren George, Hugh, Geordie and Blakeney, great-grandchildren Shannon, Katie, Nathan, Kyle and Edward and brother, Dr. Gordon Brown.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Brown's memory to Living Rock Ministries, 30 Wilson St., Hamilton, ON, L8R 1C5.
Flora Voisey was known as the Lakeshore's watch dog
The Lakeshore community said goodbye to the 'Lady of the Lake' on June 27, 2000, as Flora Voisey was laid to rest at the age of 92, following a brief illness.
Voisey will be long remembered as a community watchdog who kept an eye on Etobicoke's waterfront.
Her efforts to keep it clean gained her the nickname 'Lady of the Lake'.
"She was a lady, a real gentle lady," said Lorna and Doug Martin who had been friends with Voisey for more than 48 years.
"I always called her my girlfriend," noted area councillor Blake Kinahan, who recalled how he tried several times to get Voisey to ride on his motorcycle as part of the Santa Claus parade.
He said she would always refuse with a smile.
"She was definitely a very special lady," said Kinahan.
Councillor Doug Holyday will also miss the friendship he developed with Voisey over the years.
He spent many afternoons at Voisey's Long Branch home, sipping tea and snacking on sandwiches as they discussed her concerns.
Holyday said city council held a moment of silence for Voisey Tuesday and offered their official condolences to her family.
"She had a nice way about her," said Holyday quietly. "She will be missed."
Voisey lived in her tiny white lakefront house in Long Branch for 61 years before moving into Beechwood Place Retirement Home in Cooksville a year ago.
She was active in the Lakefront Owners' Association for more than 30 years, working side-by-side with president Doug Martin.
They both retired together in 1998, after spending years working with the Metro Region Conservation Authority protecting the lakefront.
She was also a member of the Lakeshore Ratepayer's Association, and the Long Branch Historical Society.
Voisey never missed a Metro Toronto Conservation Authority meeting (she was ultimately honoured by the organization), and was always in tune with the issues affecting the water.
Craig Mather, chief administrative officer for the authority, said Voisey was dedicated to her work.
"She asked for very little in return and wasn't in it for the recognition," said Mather. "She was there to keep her eye on us and let us know if she thought we were straying from the path."
On her 90th birthday, Voisey's nieces Janice and Linda-Ann decided to throw her a birthday party which ended up turning into a celebration with more than 150 guests.
Kinahan was surprised when Voisey started handing out presents to her guests.
"Instead of receiving gifts she was handing them out and (Voisey) gave me a small wooden motorcycle," said Kinahan, smiling at the object on his office desk downtown.
Voisey also taught Sunday school at St. Andrews in Port Credit and was an elder for 28 years at St. James Presbyterian Church.