It is with great sadness that the family of Agnes Elizabeth Finlay, age 87, of Ottawa, announce her passing on 14 April 2022, at the Garry J. Armstrong Nursing Home on Island Lodge Road, Ottawa.
Known as Elizabeth to her friends and Betty to her family, she was born in Mountain, Ontario in August of 1933. Elizabeth was one of three children born to Samuel and Effie (Van Allen) Finlay.
After graduating from Continuation School in North Gower in 1951, Elizabeth started her nurses training at the Grace Hospital, enrolling in the Salvation Army’s Graduate Nursing program. After graduation, she worked at the Perley Home as a Supervising Nurse, living in residence on Grosvenor Street and in 1955 Elizabeth left the hospital and started working as a live-in private RN, caring for those that were sick or bedridden with 24-hour care.
Elizabeth had an interesting nursing career. She started her private nursing career in Kemptville, then shortly after, moving to Ottawa. Almost immediately, she had to adjust to a different lifestyle – working inside the homes of Ottawa’s elite – caring for patients that were living at home. It was the days of “Sir” and “Lady”, calling cards at the door, servants, large dinner parties and formal Balls. Her resume included the family of Sir George Burn, of The Bank of Ottawa, and the family of the American Ambassador to Canada, living at the US Ambassador’s residence “Lornado”. While looking after the Ambassadors mother in law, in addition to her nursing duties, Elizabeth became known for her planning abilities, and was often invited to help with large dinner parties. She loved to talk about those parties, and one evening she helped to plan a dinner party which involved 100 Members of US Congress. At the time, “Lornado” did not have enough china for the number of guests invited, so they had to borrow additional china from Rideau Hall.
Life at Lornado was never dull, Elizabeth never knew who was coming to dinner, the elite of Canadian and American politics. It was while nursing at the American Ambassador’s residence, she became close friends with Governor-General Georges Vanier and his wife, Pauline. She was also very close with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and his wife Olive. Lester B, Pearson, was another regular for dinner.
After the Ambassador’s term was up, as a thank you, Elizabeth was flown to the US Capital, chauffeured for a week in Washington. The highlight of that trip – a visit to the White House where she met Jackie Kennedy.
Elizabeth continued to Nurse right into the early 1980’s, sometimes running the entire house where her patient lived. She was always treated like part of the family, and many patients thought of her as their daughter.
Betty leaves behind a brother, Garnet Finlay (Sybil); a sister-in-law Ineus Finlay; two nieces, Marlene Pauly (Aron) and Valerie Finlay (Kevin); three nephews, Kevin Finlay, Chris Finlay (Melissa), and Gordon Finlay (Lisa); three great-nieces, Emma Pauly, Avery Finlay, and Olivia Finlay; four great-nephews, Dylan Pauly, Evan Finlay, Sam and Andrew Finlay; she is predeceased by her brother Claude Finlay. Elizabeth will be dearly missed by her family and friends Gail McEachern and Judy Bedell.
A Graveside Memorial Service will be held at the South Gower Cemetery 501 South Gower Drive, Kemptville on Saturday May 7, 2022 at 2 p.m. Donations in memory of Betty may be made to the Ottawa Heart Institute or the charity of your choice. Arrangements by Byers Funeral Home, South Mountain (613-989-3836). Online condolences may be made at www.byersfuneralhomeinc.ca