Gwen Lytle lived in the same house at 1495 Stittsville Main Street for 64 years. She and her husband, Ab, raised their family in the home. After Ab passed away in 1996, Gwen continued to live in the house, with her daughter Cathy living with her in later years. Gwen sold the house in 2016 after insisting that whomever purchased it would not tear it down. She was missed when she sold her house and moved to the Dwyer Hill area with Cathy.
Gwen was born on July 13, 1929 at 1 Oxford Street in the Hintonburg neighbourhood of Ottawa, the third of 10 children, born to Florence and James McCooeye (Donnie, Shirley, Gwen, Elroy (Roy), Percy, twins Joyce and June, Marilyn (nickname Mert), Allen and Sheila). When the McCooeye family moved to Stittsville, the family lived in a house on the street that now bears their name – McCooeye Lane off of Carp Road.
Her daughter Cathy shared, “when it was time for Gwen to attend high school, she and another Stittsville girl, Romelda Parks, would board the train each day to go to Carleton Place High. After a couple of years of making this trip, Gwen said ‘this isn’t for me’.” She quickly found her first job working at Fred Bradley’s general store on Stittsville Main. It was close to home, just the way Gwen liked it. “When Fred was becoming too old to make the trip to Ottawa to purchase the store supplies, Annie, his wife, would make the trip. While Annie was absent, Gwen would look after Fred and tended to the store,” Cathy added.
After working at Bradley’s, Gwen found her way to another position a little further from home. She worked at the Point Grocery in Constance Bay, owned by the Petches family. Her Dad would drive her to Constance Bay where she would stay for the week with the Petches to work in the store, returning home to Stittsville on weekends.
It was during this time that she met Ab, her husband to be. Ab worked for the roads department and would drop into the store where he and Gwen would chat and quickly became friends. It was shortly after this that they started ‘courting’. It wasn’t long before they were married on February 14, 1948 at what was the original Presbyterian Church on Carp Road. The white apartment building at the corner of Hobin Street was once the Church and the building Orville Parks converted to apartments.
Once married, they settled in Arnprior for a short time before moving to the family farm on the 10th Line in Stittsville (Fernbank Road in the area of the Fernbank Lands neighbourhood). Ab and Gwen then purchased the house on Stittsville Main Street from the Enouf family. The elderly and widowed Mrs. Enouf (Evelyn) lived with Gwen and Ab for five years after they purchased the house. As did happen back then, Evelyn had written herself into the deed to have one bedroom and three meals a day. Thank goodness they all got along!
On August 15, 1949, Ricky, their first son was born, then on December 22, 1951, their second son, Robbie, was born and Cathy followed on November 20, 1960. Ab ran a contracting business for 40 years from the Stittsville house and was responsible for clearing and maintaining the roads for both the Townships of Goulbourn and Huntley. While the children were young Gwen stayed home. But once the kids were old enough, Gwen found herself applying for a job with Canada Post. Cathy said, “for the job, she had to obtain a ‘chauffeur’s license’ which she successfully did.” So, with kids in tow, she was behind the wheel delivering our mail for 17 years. She delivered the mail from South March to Glen Cairn to Stittsville. I remember this well. When she came down John Street to deliver the mail to the boxes outside of my Uncle Glen’s business, Glen Scott Fuels, she and my Mom, Lorraine McKay, would often have a good old chat. After delivering the mail, Gwen would go back to the post office to sort the mail for the next day which saved her time in the morning.
Ann McCooeye, Gwen’s sister-in-law and Roy’s wife, shared, “Gwennie, as she was known by everyone who knew her well, always had a smile and a kind word for most everyone in our small community. She loved her cup of tea and she loved to bowl. She could be found at the Goulburn Bowling Lanes quite often with her good friends – Ann McCooeye, Lorraine McKay, Marion Watchorn, Shirley Gracey, Marguerite Scott, Eileen Healey and Joan Hobin. The team was one of the best in the Ottawa Valley winning many tournaments.”
When we were young growing up in Stittsville if anyone fell off their bike or was involved in a ‘brawl’ at the back of the Orange Hall (Legion now), the words we all knew and said were, ‘run for Gwennie’s’. Gwennie was always prepared with bandages and kind words for those who got hurt and was quick to size up the ‘fellas that were brawling’. The Lytle house was known as the safe house because Gwennie was always there to take care of us.
During her time living at Dwyer Hill, her health began to decline. In October 2019, with her care becoming more demanding for Cathy, Gwennie was moved to Forest Hill Long-Term Care in Kanata. While in their care, COVID hit, and the family were no longer able to visit with their beloved Mom, Gwennie. They had window visits and chats on the phone, but it was hard on the family to not have their daily visits. Gwennie was affected as well. With the lapse of time of not seeing her family her memory became impaired. Cathy told me, “near the end when we were able to visit again, Mom wouldn’t respond to Mom, Mrs. Lytle or Gwen, but call her Gwennie and she knew who she was.”
Our beloved Gwennie passed away peacefully on May 7, 2021 in her 92nd year and has been interred at Maple Grove Cemetery. Stittsville has lost another member of the community who will be remembered for her kind and gentle manner.