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|Dorothy Alice Wallace (nee Caldwell) was born on November 28, 1914 in
Ottawa. Affectionately known as "Dot", she passed away on November
4, 2002 at the age of 87 years, 11 months and 7 days. In all that time she
remained committed to her church as a necessary part of her life.
The earliest reference to Dorothy in the church records is her"coming to Christ" in 1926 when she joined the church as a member along with her sister Ethel. Ottawa East in the 1920's was a patchwork of devout "church-goers" that staunchly defended their particular view of Christ and the Crown. Dorothy was no different. A person's social life revolved around their church. From dances to picnics, from weddings to teas, it was Wesley's social milieu that welcomed a young Dorothy to Ottawa East.
I grew up on Concord Street, near the railway tracks that brought the coal to fill the sheds that bordered our backyard. Daily rumblings of freight and passenger trains went unnoticed - it was a part of life. The rails also brought some interesting people.
One of my earliest memories was that of sitting at the kitchen table and hearing a knock at the back door. I remember my mother regularly opening the back door to "another bum" (also known as "rubby-dubs" or tramps). These were the men who rode the rails living off what ever they could beg or borrow. Always dressed in worn clothes, with a ruddy complexion, rarely shaved, young and old, they were always very polite (it was "Yes Missus") when asking for a handout. Not one ever asked for money and many offered to do work in return for food. My mother always found something to give, even when it was close to pay-day. Some crackers and cheese, sandwiches if she was making them, maybe 4 or five potatoes - enough for a meal. It was the Christian way according to my mother.
The question I asked myself when young was "Why do they always come to our door?" My buddies never reported such occurrences - why us? It wasn't until years later, while watching a documentary on railway tramps that I learned the answer. Our house, so close to the tracks, had been marked. These men had a universal system of identifying houses that were friendly and willing to help out a respectful traveler.
You couldn't ask for a clearer, more honest endorsement of this woman. No, 'Dot' was never elected to office; she didn't operate a business and never wrote a book. She simply led a decent hardworking life and shared what she had in a Christian way. It was the teaching of her Saviour and church that guided her - "Suffer the poor" - including the bums.
Dorothy is but one example of the many good people who have lived in
Ottawa East. She did her part and left a legacy. And part of her legacy
is this "History of Ottawa East", a story that she always wanted
written. I promised her!
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