North Point Images


  Photos of nature and more
  by DON WESTGATE.

Mary Westgate -                           A Son Remembers


When the obituary I wrote failed to appear, I decided that on July 22, what would have been my mother's birthday, I would post a brief biography of her. Although I am her son, Don Westgate, I will refer fo her as 'Mary', as that is how everyone else knew her.

Mary was born Mary Frances O'Donnell in Sarnia in 1922, in the same house her father was born in. It was on what used to be her grandfather's milk farm. (It ceased operations when the city limits pushed past it.) When she was growing up, when people learned her last name was O'Donnell, they would often say “I was raised on O'Donnell Milk!”

Mary was the first of her generation, followed by 3 younger brothers William, Frank Jr., and John and 3 younger sisters, Anne (Honey), Isabelle, and Janet all of whom she outlived.

She had an adventurous childhood. Her maternal grandfather, Alex Fraser, was the captain of the Noronic, the largest passenger ship of its day to sail the Great Lakes. When it was berthed in Sarnia, young Mary and her cousins used to play on it. In fact, they sometimes did the rounds, punching time cards while the night watchman took a night off. You can bet her grandfather never knew of that.

Mary spent part of her childhood in Detroit, where her father moved the family during the depression in order to work. Ever the animal lover, Mary owned a ferret, that she pushed along the sidewalks in a baby stroller.

Back in Sarnia during WWII, she worked at Autolite (later named Prestolite). She later met Neil Westgate, from Kerwood, who had served in the Air Force in Europe during the war. They embarked on one of the great marriages of all time.

When she got married, her father gave her the lot adjacent to the one the family home was on, and her new husband Neil, though an accountant by trade, spent his spare time building a house on it. About the time the house was completed in 1953, another project was also completed: me. My name, Donald, (Don for short) was chosen by taking the 'Don' from O'Donnell.

When Neil's job transferred to Toronto in 1953, Mary did not want to go. In those days she knew virtually everyone in Sarnia. But she soon enjoyed new friendships in Scarborough, and kept in touch with relatives with frequent visits between Scarborough and Sarnia. She lived in the same house for the next 56 years.

She loved animals, especially dogs. Later in life, after her husband died, she enjoyed minding neighbourhood dogs when their owners were away.

She also loved to bake, and to knit, especially afghans. A life long insomniac, she spent the nights reading, generally reading a book a night.