Animal lover, devoted grandmother, world traveller. Born June 27, 1921, in Winnipeg; died April 30, 2013, in Markham, Ont., of Alzheimer's disease, aged 91.
The middle of three daughters born to Josephine and Bill Lovatt, Ellen Sargeant spent her early years in Winnipeg – until the Depression hit. Like many others, her family experienced tough times, so when a well-off aunt and uncle in England offered to take in Ellen and her older sister in 1930, her parents reluctantly agreed.
Ellen made the cross-Atlantic journey with her sister Renee, who was two years older. On a visit home in 1931, Renee decided not to return, leaving Ellen to travel back to England alone at the age of 10.
Sent to boarding school, Ellen proved resilient, adapting to her new life even though she missed her family. Naturally sociable, she enjoyed living in a dorm with all the other girls. Later in life she could give Emily Post a run for her money – her lady-like ways had their roots in boarding school lessons on etiquette, manners and social graces.
Ellen returned to Winnipeg in 1936 to finish high school, where she excelled at track and field and other sports. When she was 21, a girlfriend she had met on her trans-Atlantic crossing convinced her to go on a blind date with a young Royal Canadian Air Force pilot-in-training named Creighton, who was stationed in Dauphin, Man. This blind date led to Ellen and Creighton's marriage in 1943. He was her one true love, and they were married for 68 years until Creighton's death in 2011.
After his training, Creighton was stationed in Dartmouth, N.S. In 1945, he was sent back to Winnipeg, where they had their first child, Joan. After the war, they moved to Montreal.
When Ellen was pregnant with her second child, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Although doctors told her she would need an immediate hysterectomy, which would result in termination of the pregnancy, she refused to have the surgery until after Norma's birth.
When her children were young, Ellen was a full-time housewife and mother. As they got older she worked part-time as a sales clerk at The Bay and in the mailroom at Air Canada. This job allowed her and Creighton the chance to travel, and together they visited England, Austria and New Zealand, to name a few destinations. In 1983, Ellen retired, and she and Creighton moved to Oakville, Ont., where they took up lawn bowling and enjoyed spending time with their grandchildren.
Ellen had a soft spot not only for children but also for animals. She was known to spoil the many cats and dogs she owned over the years, even cooking separate meals for her dog.
In her early 80s, Ellen was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Even though her memory and cognitive abilities declined over the years, she still found happiness in visits from her family, including her six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. On her final day, Ellen was surrounded by her daughter, granddaughters, great-granddaughter and two family dogs. The chaplain in the long-term care home where she lived took a picture of everyone in the room because she thought that's the way it should be at the end – surrounded by love. Ellen would have loved it.
Kerry King is Ellen's granddaughter.