Veterans Club hits 75 years with first woman president

When Rob Warman called to tell me that the Veterans Club of Barrie was initiating its first female president in its 74 year history, I didn’t know whether to applaud or cry. 74 years??? Women have long participated in the armed forces and in both war and peacekeeping efforts, so you can appreciate my reaction.  I remember interviewing the first woman president of the Simcoe County Federation of Agriculture in 1973… (that would be 39 years ago)

However, the Veterans Club of Barrie boasts 152 members, meets five times a year, and keeps its activities largely social and I think it matters that you get to know Ellen Stahls, new president. Ellen, actually, has known she’d be president since she accepted the position of 2nd Vice President two years ago and it will be during or just after her ‘reign’ that the club will celebrate 75 years!

Ellen joined the armed forces in 1974. She had graduated from RVH School of Nursing which was directed by Catherine Brown. Ellen lived with her fellow nursing students in the old nurses residence on Wellington St, at the back of what was RVH in the 70’s. From their residence, nursing students could slip through tunnels into the hospital for rounds and on-the-job training.

Ellen wanted to use her nursing training as a member of Canada’s Armed Forces. Practical by nature, this Huntsville native saw Armed Forces service as a great way to see the world. She joined up at the recruitment office in North Bay and her first posting was Halifax. She was off on her adventure to travel and work. She spent time in Lahr, West Germany; Cold Lake, Alta; Ottawa, North Bay, Windsor, with her final posting in Edmonton. She retired from there in 1999 and returned to Barrie.

As a registered nurse, she worked in the Operating Room half of her career. Secondary positions included senior nurse positions and public health roles. Her Ottawa posting saw her in orthopaedic wards, mostly for military, rcmp, and politicians. “The majority of our patients were vets,” she said, “though the age range was 18 to 90.” Fractures, torn ligaments, back surgeries… those were her Ottawa patients.

Ellen returned to Barrie and joined the Army Navy Air Force Club in 2005. In 2008 she was elected to the Executive and served as secretary-treasurer, working mornings, for the ANAF. The George St club is also home to the Veterans Club of Barrie, as well as the Huronia Wing. Ellen recalls her initiation into the Veterans Club as a subtle approach… an invitation to dinner one evening, a membership form slipped beneath her plate, a request two years ago that she take the First VP role, and then last Thursday when she took her new position as President.

She’s got a great slate of executive members with her, too:  Past President, Bill Buck; First VP, Bill Sergeant; Second VP, Mel Fullerton; Secretary, Nikki Morin; Treasurer, Fred Marentette; Membership, Rob Warman; Padre, Rick Horst; Communications, Ed Oram and Directors Al Zaba, Don McKillican, and Bob Middlemiss.

With this team, the Veterans Club hopes to attract new members, anyone who has served with the Canadian Armed Forces.  This social club holds five or six dinners a year, with guest speakers of a political or military nature.  If you’re interested, check out the website at

And so, Ellen, thanks for stepping into this role so willingly!