What words describe a man like Elroy McCooeye – humble; heroic; ingenious; slyly witty; proud husband, father and grandfather; a dear friend to many – come to mind. ‘Roy’ as most people called him, was born in 1930 (to James McCooeye and Florence – nee Foley) and raised here in our little town. Roy, sadly, passed away last Saturday, September 7 at 4:35 in the morning.
Roy was never one to talk about what he did or had done for the community, he just went about his business silently – not seeking recognition nor attention, but knowing in his heart that he had contributed so much to Stittsville. I want to take the time to recognize this modest man and share his involvement in our town out of respect for his family and an amazing person.
In 1953, Roy married Ann (Stevenson), a big-city Toronto girl, in the old Presbyterian Church out on Carp Road. The Church today is at the corner of Carp and Hobin Street as the green-shuttered white building with four apartments. They were the last couple to marry in that Church before the new one was built on Mulkins Street. Roy and Ann, within the next year started their family – Amy was born, then Tracy and a few years later Timothy (Tim). When they got married, they lived in an apartment above the old Bradley’s general store where their neighbours were Lloyd and Gladys Creigo before purchasing the house that became their permanent home until this day.
When Roy was a young lad, he played a drum in the band of the Orange Young Britons, Lodge #74, under the leadership of Archie Cameron. The Orange Young Britons were the youth group affiliated with the Loyal Orange Lodge #489 built in 1930 in Stittsville (where the Stittsville Legion is now located). When he was 9 or 10, Roy played the bugle in the same band. The band was very active in those days, performing in all of the local area July 12th parades and at special ceremonies here in Stittsville – they were the pride of Stittsville. Put into perspective, travel was not easy in those days, but Roy could be found at all of the events – his parents made sure of it.
He also enjoyed local sports, participating on many of the local teams when growing up and was respected as a real team player. Roy was instrumental in getting our first arena here in Stittsville assisting the organizing team. He was the cheerleader for the many walks where every member of the community walked the 25 miles from Stittsville to Munster and back to raise money to see our community centre dream brought to life. He coached many of our little league baseball teams in the 1960’s and was so proud of the boys.
I must tell you a story that Ann shared with me (I must admit it was my uncle and cousin, but won’t disclose names). “When Roy was coaching baseball, he received a call from a parent lamenting that their boy wasn’t getting play time. Roy replied – have you been to the games and seen him play? Parent – not really, not often. Well, Roy said, you better come out – he stands in the outfield tossing stones around and not paying attention. His fellow teammates yell his name when the ball is coming at him and well he just doesn’t see the problem. So to be fair to the team, I sit him out.” Roy never heard from the parent again. Ann shared many other stories that would fill this page.
(From the memory scrapbook of Ann McCooeye – a grass fire at the Beagle Club Road taken in 1973 (off of Fernbank and in present day part of the Fernbank Quarry near the Stittsville Shooting Range). Top picture is Deputy Chief Roy McCooeye on the left and Alf Gallant on the right. The bottom picture is of Don Smith, left and Roy McCooeye right. Just check out the lack of equipment!)
Roy had his full-time job as a plumber with the National Research Council for 32 years, but Roy was also a volunteer firefighter from 1955 – a volunteer position he loved. He served his community as Deputy Chief and Captain from 1975-1989, followed by retirement. During this time Roy fought many fires in Stittsville and this is where his heroism comes in. From grass fires to the Ashton Feed Mill; Elmer Cathcart’s farm on Flewellyn Road; Lauryson Kitchens on Carp Road; Stittsville Trailers on Main Street, owned at the time by Carl Ashton and incidentally was right across the street from the fire hall, to name a few – Roy was always at the ready and fought these fires along with his fellow mates with very little in the way of protective gear. When Ann came to Stittsville from Toronto in the 1950’s, “she was shocked at the casual nature of the fire department. Equipment was poor, and she remembers men fighting grass fires bare-chested!”. When Brian Bedard came in as the new Captain at what is today known as Station 81, Roy was his mentor and responsible for training Brian. So you can now see why Brian is so good at his job.
Roy was a chartered member of the Stittsville and District Lions Club from its inception in 1964. He was a Cub Scout Leader in the 1970’s. He was a member of the Goulbourn Township Historical Society and could be found at all of their events and especially at the Christmas Party, faithfully donning his ‘ugly’ Christmas sweater and elf hat! He and Ann were members of the Goulbourn Lawn Bowling Club since its beginning in 1996. Roy was a long-time greens keeper at the lawn bowling club, along with Don Black. As Ann told me when someone called the house looking for him she responded, “if he couldn’t be found at the fire hall, he may be at the lawn bowling club”.
Roy was one to be admired. From being raised here myself, when Roy was present in any of the events I was involved in – he would be respected and loved, but always provided a side of fun. Roy was a truly sincere leader, without any flaunting. Stittsville looked up to the reserved Elroy McCooeye and that is why McCooeye Lane is named in the essence of the McCooeye name.
So, I ask that next time you pass by McCooeye Lane, just give a slight nod or tilt of your head or hat in recognition and remembrance of one of Stittsville’s unassuming but extremely community minded citizens. I know I will and I will never forget his endearing grin!