Stittsville community remembers John Brummell with fond memories and photos

(John Brummell takes his usual stance as he captures a moment at the 2013 Arts in the Park, one of Stittsville’s Village Association events. Marion Gullock, a former Director of the SVA stands alongside. Photo: Phil Sweetnam)

On Saturday, March 18 we were told the sad news that another of Stittsville’s beloved residents had passed away. John Brummell will be sorely missed. He was instrumental in bringing our community together through his photographs, writing, involvement, sharing his infectious smile and sense of humour. Stittsville and the former Goulbourn Township is so fortunate to have John, Rosemary and Deborah make Stittsville their home for almost 45 years.

Back in 1957 while attending Trenton High School, John was an Air Cadet until 1961. During this time he learned much about the aviation industry and survival skills. With this knowledge, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in August, 1961 until October, 1965 performing the duties of a Medic for over four years. In October, 1965 he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) as a Technical Advisor where he remained for just shy of 28 years, leaving in April, 1993.

But it was a chance visit to an office at the former Bell’s Service Centre in 1979 that carved out John’s future and love of Stittsville and Goulbourn. John had dropped into the office of The Stittsville News, owned by John Curry at this time. The office space was shared with Mary, Curry’s mother, who managed her antiques shop for many years. John wanted to know more about the community newspaper business and at the same time, in an offhand remark, pointed out that his career had allowed him to gain impressive photographic skills, not to mention a bit of writing. After a discussion between John and Mary, it was decided that John Brummell would be hired and began working part-time for the local paper in June 1980. The Stittsville News never looked back and the two Johns quickly became best friends. When John retired in 1993 he became full-time clicking his camera for those loved photographs and articles to share with the community for over 42 years. Seldom did an event take place in Stittsville or Goulbourn that was not covered and photographed by John Brummell.

(John Brummell judged many of the photos for the Stittsville Goulbourn Horticultural Society annual photo contest. Here he explains the fundamentals of capturing that perfect photograph prior to the winners being announced.)

The Stittsville News had been a part of our community’s history for just under 60 years, publishing its first-ever four-page issue on December 12, 1957 by former owners Howard and Lloyd Maguire. Since 1975, the paper had been under the guidance of editor-in-chief, John Curry, with the support and involvement of his mother, sister, and nephew who helped maintain the circulation lists and produce the addressed paper bags in which the paper was mailed to subscribers each week. Other local residents became involved with the paper over the years such as the late Barb Fairbrother who handled office duties for almost 20 years. It was through the support and dedication of this team and that of the community, with its many groups and organizations, that The Stittsville News became a household name.

When The Stittsville News was sold to the Metroland Media Group (MMG), the group wanted to ensure that the loyal local coverage was continued by the team of ‘two Johns’ – as many referred to John Curry and John Brummell. So in February 2016, John Brummell continued to share, along with John Curry, his enthusiasm for our local community through his photographs and articles for over seven years under the historical The Stittsville News name. For that, the community was ever grateful.

(John Brummell receives the Mayor’s Community Builder Award on January 25, 2017. L to r: Councillor Shad Qadri, Mayor Jim Watson, John, Councillor Scott Moffatt. Photo: City of Ottawa)

In 2017, two important events took place in John’s life – he was awarded the Mayor’s Community Builder Award and he officially retired on Friday, January 13. Upon winning the award, John said, “when I was awarded the Mayor’s Community Builder Award, John (Curry) could not have been prouder and as a wonderful friend, he was there beside me sharing in the celebration.” Now in retirement, John could relax working in his garden – one of greatest passions, putter around the house doing those projects that were overlooked, continue his HAM operations, fishing, travel and enjoy each day as he walked the dog.

"The Two Johns". Longtime Stittsville News reporters John Curry (left) and John Brummell at City Hall in January 2017. Brummell received a Mayor's City Builder Award after his retirement from the newspaper. Photo via Deborah Brummell / Stittsville Neighbours.
(“The Two Johns”. Longtime Stittsville News reporters John Curry (left) and John Brummell at City Hall in January 2017. John B. had received a Mayor’s City Builder Award after his retirement from the newspaper. Photo: Deborah Brummell)

We asked many in the community who have known John for years to share their thoughts, stories and memories. Their connection with John may have been through his photographs, stories, affiliated organizations or as good friends. The honour for John in the words are touching and confirm what we all know – John Brummell was a beautiful person and will be deeply missed.

(John Brummell and Judith Cox prepare to announce the winner of the SGHS photo contest in 2020. Photo: Stittsville Central).

Judith Cox, President of the Stittsville Goulbourn Horticultural Society – When I first moved to Stittsville and before I joined the Stittsville Goulbourn Horticultural Society I bought a subscription to the Stittsville News. This little paper had everything you needed to know about what had happened in Goulbourn and what was going to happen next. This is where I had my first introduction to John Brummell and his close friend John Curry. One or both of them would show up at school events and children’s sporting events and all manner of club events.

The Stittsville Goulbourn Horticultural Society owes a great deal of its existence to John Curry and John Brummel. When we had events one or the other of them was there; taking pictures and chatting with members and listening with great attentiveness to whatever speaker was speaking at the time.

John Brummell stepped up and became a judge for our Photo Competition a few years ago and he was amazing. He had positive comments about everyone’s entries and suggestions as to how they could improve. He obviously took great care that all of the criteria were met and while he was warm and welcoming he was also professional.

I, and the Stittsville Goulbourn Horticultural Society, will miss him very much. He was a talented and giving person who always went above and beyond to help others.

Louise Beggs, former Stittsville Councillor God has called you home. I am so sorry for the loss that is to so many, especially to your beloved Rosemary and cherished Deborah.

In the community, we will all miss you in so many deep ways. You thrived with people.  And in return, you gave us your kind, smiling, laughing, listening, sentimental, caring and deeply good self. Behind your camera, you took beautiful photos that caught the good in each person. You were looking for that good, and you always believed in it. You graced OUR cubs, high school graduates, council meetings, the Richmond Fair, Parade of Lights, anything and everything that was good in our community, with your loving lens. When you were with John Curry, your Best friend who was also called by God just over a year ago, he would be observing and taking careful and respectful notes, while you were chatting with us, connecting with the person behind the story. Together, you are loved more than words can say. You both loved the people, our community, all of us, each with your hearts of pure gold. 

In return, we thank you forever. And please know that we will love you joyfully, until we are all together again. Your friend, Louise

Tanya Hein, Past-President of the Stittsville Village Association – John was one of the first people I met in Stittsville. I saw him taking photos at a Christmas event and thought a local newspaperman would be a great person to ask about my new home community. He was full of stories, tips, and contacts —clearly someone who had a deep involvement in and love for Stittsville. As I got to know Stittsville better, I saw John everywhere, usually with his camera in hand, capturing Stittsville’s finest moments. He was just a lovely person, and it’s hard to imagine Stittsville without yet another of the dedicated people who made it such a great community.

(After showing Hélène Rivest the fundamentals of her new camera, she captured this wonderful photo of John in his old Stittsville News office. Photo: Hélène Rivest)

Hélène Rivest – Where do I start to remember John Brummell. There are so many memories. I remember him showing me one night his radio room and explaining to me how everything worked, how the call signs are established, how we can communicate with someone all over the world. Another time, I had just bought a new camera and didn’t really know how everything worked. He said bring it in and he showed me the basics, and then he said take a picture of me. He was sitting at his desk in the old Stittsville News office.

For many years, I was Chief Elf to his Stittsville Santa. We went to many community activities as Santa/Elf. We did kids Christmas parties, some Historical Society parties and by far his favourite places to visit were Granite Ridge and the Villa on Mainstreet. He used to say that the look on people’s faces, their eyes sparkling, the smile they gave us was the best. One year after one morning’s event, he said “Let’s park somewhere on Mainstreet and stand on the sidewalk to wave at people. Let’s bring a bit of cheer to everyone’s morning.”

That was John, he brought joy where ever he went. I miss him and my thoughts are with Rosemary and Deborah. I know that now he’s upstairs with John Curry busily preparing the next issue of The Heavenly News!

(Only two best friends John Curry and John Brummell could be found ‘clowning’ around on Canada Day in 2004. Photo submitted by: Shad and Theresa Qadri)

Former Councillor Shad Qadri; Theresa Qadri, Chair of the Stittsville Food Bank – John Brummell, a photo journalist with a keen eye for our community. If you ever read a local Stittsville paper over the years then you must have seen a picture or two, reflected through the eyes of John Brummell. You see there never was a community event that John B did not cover. From school graduations, to fairs to parades to 4H Club to Lions and Rotary to Legions and many more. You see there was not a community event that happened in the former Goulbourn Township that you did not see John Brummell at. With him taking the pictures and his partner John Curry as managing editor (who passed away in 2022), they became known to our community as the two “John’s of Stittsville”.

John always remembered to capture the people he covered by adding the participants names to all photos. Something very unique for a local newspaper. 

On the personal side John Brummell was a person with a good sense of very dry humour. There never really was a conversation where John did not add something with a funny quip.  Once at an event in the Abbott Street Park, he put out his hand and asked if I had a quarter. With a surprised look on my face I asked what for? He said for a cup of coffee. Now as a City Councillor I thought what an odd request coming from a media person of a politician at city budget discussion time. 

John also showed his love for our community in so many other ways. One example was when all the businesses started opening up along Hazeldean Road and started referring to themselves as Kanata locations, John made sure to let their offices know that they should be proud to be located in Stittsville. In most cases, they obliged and informed their head offices. John once said to me that in a country where we sing about standing for our country it is up to each of us to shout out and show our pride for our community no matter how big we were growing. 

John and I had many discussions about the community in which one could hear his passion, and in my mind he was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of our community. Looking back you could see that pride reflected through his pictures and in the printed articles.

John Brummell was truly a class act!

In the passing of the “two Johns” we have all lost a great piece of Stittsville! They were the heart and the history keepers of our community!

We are sure they are both up in heaven, one with a pen and the other with a camera showing their love for our community every day!

Allan Ryan, former Goulbourn Councillor; Past-President of the Stittsville Business Association – I have known John Brummell for a long time and have the utmost of respect for him. I recall from my days as a Councillor, both John Curry and John Brummell would attend the many council meetings held, and I would always think of them in a good way when they strode into meetings as the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of Stittsville. John Curry (Sherlock) would arrive at the meetings with his notepad and pen and minutes later in would walk camera-laden John Brummell (Watson).

What I admired about both John Brummell and John Curry. They consistently put our community first – not what the community could do for them, but what could they both do for the community – always putting the community ahead of themselves considering all of the time they gave freely to our community. We have lost the greatest advocates for our community. I will miss them both.

John could be found at every opening, school and sports activity and more capturing those special moments behind his lens. He ensured that each name was included in the Stittsville News if John C was not present as his co-hort. Both Johns covered the political map in an unbiased and fairly written way. They never got caught up in the fray of politics.

I extend my condolences to John’s wife Rosemary, daughter Deborah and to all of the Brummell family.

(John Brummell displaying the Best of Show photograph in the 2011 Stittsville-Goulbourn Historical Society photo contest. Photo: Barbara Bottriell)

Barbara Bottriell, Past-President of the Stittsville-Goulbourn Historical Society – John Brummell was a well-known man about town. He and John Curry made a great team – John Curry would write the articles and John Brummell would take the photos for the Stittsville News. They would appear everywhere at events and happenings in Stittsville, Richmond or elsewhere in the township – wherever anything interesting was happening.

John Brummell was also a dedicated supporter of the Goulbourn Historical Society, serving on its Board of Directors for several years. He played an important role in the Historical Society’s Photo Contests which were held from 2010 to 2015. He was the judge for those contests. He also represented the Historical Society at Stittsville’s annual Remembrance Day service on several occasions. He was a busy man, usually in good humour, and he made an excellent Santa Claus at the Historical Society’s Christmas parties when they used to be held in the Museum.

It’s sad to say goodbye to John. We’ll miss him with his ever-present camera and his ready smile.

Marion Mossman, Past-President of the Rotary Club of Ottawa-Stittsville – The Rotary Club of Ottawa-Stittsville is deeply saddened by the recent passing of John Brummell. 

John Brummell was an Honorary Rotarian and we all really appreciated his willingness to take photos of club service activities in Stittsville, at a moment’s notice. He was made an Honorary Rotarian for his long service as the primary photographer for the news in our community. He’s also remembered for his kindness, his very caring nature and wonderful sense of humour. 

John dressed up as Santa Claus at our Christmas musical events at the Stittsville Villa and entertained Rotarians as well as the seniors.  He had a long lasting friendship with John Curry and they shared many interesting memories together.

Our hearts go out to John’s wife, Rosemary and their family for their loss.

(Former Mayor Larry O’Brien presented the Citizen’s Volunteer Agent of Change Medallion to John Brummell and Phil Sweetnam in 2010 at Village Square Park. Photo provided by Phil Sweetnam.)

Phil Sweetnam – I have wonderful memories of John Brummell, John Curry and I getting together for several years for Sunday morning breakfast. The “two Johns” as they were commonly referred to and I covered a wide variety of topics. Although we understood each other’s views, we often had different views which always led to great discussion.

During Larry O’Brien’s term as Mayor, John Brummell and I met him at the Stittsville Village Association Fall Festival and he awarded both John and I with a Citizen’s Volunteer Medal. This was quite an honour as only 20 medals were awarded in his term.

John Brummell was dedicated to promoting John Curry. Along with other community members, John Brummell and I wrote submissions on why John Curry’s journalistic work was so important to the Goulbourn community and that he should be awarded the recognition of being the top journalist across Ontario in the Metrolink chain of newspapers. Unfortunately, John Curry came in second but only to a much larger newspaper community which was still quite an accomplishment. 

John Brummell’s interest in the community extended far beyond just being the community photographer as demonstrated by his activities on the board of the Goulbourn Township Historical Society. He was active in service clubs such as the Lion’s Club for many years. (I believe he was President for a term?)

John was as comfortable working with Premiers and Mayors as he was dealing with the general public at community events such as Arts in the Park and church plays.

John felt his important role in Stittsville was recognized when many people including Mayor Watson referred to the two Johns as the news voice of Stittsville. John was truly honoured when Mayor Watson and Councillors Shad Qadri and Scott Moffatt honoured him by giving him the City Builders Award at his official retirement as a Metroland employee.

John accumulated over 50,000 photographs which provided an excellent historical picture of Stittsville’s and Goulbourn’s development over a 35-year period. We sincerely hope that the tens of thousands of photographs that were part of his work can be preserved. It would be important to work with the family so that bodies like the Goulbourn Museum or the Historical Society may provide public access to this important body of work portraying the growth of our community as captured by John Brummell for future generations.

Councillor Glen Gower – I will miss John greatly. He was a dedicated contributor in our community, both in his role as a journalist as well as through his many volunteer pursuits over the years.  John Brummell and his friend John Curry were everywhere with the Stittsville News, attending community association meetings, local hockey games, school graduations, neighbourhood picnics and music recitals.

What I’ll remember most about John is his friendly spirit that put everyone around him at ease. He brought so much joy to his work, which was reflected in the genuine smiles from the people he photographed. My condolences to John’s family and his many friends in the community.

And on Facebook, the Main Street Cafe expressed their sadness for the loss of John.

(The Main Street Cafe, where John was a regular, expressed their sadness at the loss of John. Photo: from John’s personal HAM page.)

Lesley McKay, Managing Editor, Stittsville Central – John was larger than life. Always respectful, John made everyone in his presence so comfortable with his warm smile, humbleness and readiness to chat or carry on an in-depth conversation. He was never short on words! Last summer, we ran into John at the grocery store, where he was chatting with Robin Dueck (of West Ottawa Ladies’ Chorus fame) and Brian McKay, well that chat turned into an hour of reminiscing and great laughs a time we will all cherish. When John was in your presence, it was guaranteed that his sense of wit, laughs and positive nature took hold of all. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, he treated everyone the same there were no airs with John. When his best friend John Curry passed away last February, we talked and talked through two lengthy phone calls of memories, chuckles and stories. I hold on to those conversations and memories of the ‘two Johns’. John will be missed by so many for his kindness and, well, for just being John, someone who was always giving and respected by us all. Keep your memories of both Johns close to your heart their dedication, love of the people and their community can never be replaced. Our sincere condolences are extended to Rosemary, Deborah, AJ and other family members at this difficult time. Until we meet again John, rest peacefully.

Phil Sweetnam has taken many photos over the years and shared these photos of John at various events from 2005-2015 and we thought you would enjoy a slideshow of memories. Thank you Phil!



3 thoughts on “Stittsville community remembers John Brummell with fond memories and photos”


  2. John and Rosemary were our best friends in the military. Our friendship never wavered over the last 60 years. We had laughs, did crazy things and went through many happy and sad situations together.
    I will miss him as a very good friend and Dad to Debbie.
    He will be with my Don and together they are pain free and driving people crazy with their antics.
    Love always my friend.

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