I could do with a little help around here…

They’ve taken down the hardhat hanging on the door to room 3018. That’s where Constance hang her hat. Room 3018 at Grove Park Home. And ‘Constance’ was the nickname given to the woman who became the poster girl for Grove Park’s million dollar capital campaign.

When Barrie’s oldest restirement and longterm care residence launched its addition and rejuvenation campaign, the community-based marketing team decided that the campaign publicity should be centred around a resident, not the administrator or board chair.

After rounds of test photography and a gruelling examination of physical stamina, they launched ‘Constance’ as the face on the billboard for Grove Park Home. “I could do with a little help around here…” was the slogan. ‘Constance’ wore a hard hat, and coveralls, a work shirt, tool belt, work boots and the attitude to go with it. She was the official launcher at the campaign kick off. She appeared at every cheque passing event, receiving the financial gift and presenting a gold hammer in thanks. She turned up her hearing aid and turned on her charm.

As ‘Constance’ she was photographed at work in the front office, mopping the hall floors, flipping grilled cheese sandwiches in the kitchen, and of course on the job site where she maneuvered her walker among the two-by-fours.

She loved it.

After all, who gets to be a poster girl at age 97? And who was behind Constance? Evelyn Marie Cormack Hawkins, that’s who.

She was the fifth child born at Sunny Meadows Farm near Arthur, Ontario. After three boys, little Evelyn was the fairest baby in the land… very welcome and adored by her Dad. With a streak of independence and a determination matched only by attitude, Evelyn lived her childhood in full action, truly a ‘tomboy’ of her era.

This past Thursday afternoon, surrounded by campaign poster pictures and other more sedate remembrances, Evelyn was mourned and celebrated by her family and friends. Days away from her 99th birthday, Evelyn slipped into sleep earlier this week and left the construction site.

But as Evelyn’s shell was laid to rest, her very spirit hovered nearby. Reverend Dennis Posno shared the antics of Evelyn’s youth… river rafting during high water season, helping out on the farm, hauling milk out to pasture to feed calves. She even survived being buried by a wagon full of hay.

Arthur High School benefitted from Ev’s presence and while she was directed to the only suitable career for a woman in the 1920’s, she refused to look at life as a teacher. She insisted on going into office work. At age 20 she began working for the Mail and Empire newspaper. She loved change. She was fired twice, and she always left a job the minute she was bored.

An unclaimed treasure in marriage Evelyn used her ‘freedom’ to travel across Canada. She went to Santa Monica, CA, visited Disneyland, went to Bermuda, PEI, took an Alaskan cruise and a trip to Europe that included 11 countries. A cruise in Scandinavia rounded out travel experienced for her.

Barrie got the better part of the bargain when Evelyn retired. She took an apartment at Collier Place and it was there that she met her future husband, Charlie Hawkins. He and his first wife were long time friends, and when she died, Ev and Charlie decided to marry, in 1989… his second, her first. They enjoyed a decade of companionship until his death in 1999. It was then that Ev moved to Grove Park, to Maple Wing.

She moved to her new room in the new addition last fall and hung her hard hat on door 3018.

She loved sunshine, and fresh flowers. She loved action. She loved chocolate, particularly double fudge cake. She was proud, and very conscious of her appearance. During her mascarade as Constance, Ev was quite clear that this was a game and she was the actress and the clothes were her costume. She played it to the hilt. But when Rogers TV came to film her for their One on One show, she was quite clear about camera angle and position and her “best side.”

What a remarkable woman we’ve lost… born in 1906, lived through two world wars, and the great depression, worked on her family farm, held down administration positions in an era where the world of work belonged to men and the world of servitude belonged to women. But, not to Ev.

And how to stretch out a life! Marry at age 83. Become a marketing icon at age 97.

Well, why not?

Ev? Thank you! You may now “hammer it home.”