Ernie Brunet knew the importance of family. He was a loving husband to his wife Shirley for sixty-one years and father to four children, Tony, Joanne, Alex and Gerald. Ernie took his role as father seriously, working hard to ensure that his family had a roof over their heads, food on the table, an education and participation in sports and clubs. Over the years, his family grew welcoming daughter/son-in-laws, and he became grandfather to ten children and great grandfather to seven.
Ernie was born on June 1st, 1926 in Alexandria, Ontario, a small bilingual town located in Eastern Ontario. Growing up as the third youngest of ten children, he learned the importance of frugal it y, long before recycling became trendy. He was quite particular and would discard nothing if it could be creatively reused in some way. His garden shed was a veritable Aladdin’s cave of recycling and a showcase for the Green Movement.
After enlisting in the army in 1944, Ernie trained at camps in Ontario, Quebec and B.C., narrowly missing deployment overseas to join three brothers, as both the European and Pacific theatres of war ended. For his service, he was decorated with the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and the War Medal 1939-1945. He joined Ontario Hydro in 1948 working as a lineman for thirty-five years, finally retiring in 1983. In his leisure time, Ernie was an outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting, fishing and sports. An avid lacrosse and hockey player in his youth, the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Blue Jays were his passion later in life. On one occasion, Tony took his father Ernie to Montreal to see a Habs game. They arrived early enough to take a tour of the museum and enjoy the memorabilia showcasing the Habs history. At one point they saw a life-size statue of the Habs mascot Youppi and stopped for a photo. Suddenly, the “statue” wrapped its arms around Ernie’s waist, almost giving him a heart attack!
Shirley and Ernie called Beamsville home, living in the same house for fifty-six years. In September 2017, they moved to Maplecrest Village in Grimsby. He was a long-time parishioner of St. Helen’s church and had a deep Catholic Faith. Ernie also belonged to the Knights of Columbus for fifty-eight years, giving back to the community in many ways.
While Ernie was a “fighter”, having survived prostate cancer, lymphoma, and a quadruple bypass in the past, in March of this year his health declined sufficiently that admission to McNally House was appropriate. On March 6th, Ernie and his family were welcomed to the hospice by the staff and volunteers. The family felt a “welcome relief” and were able to relax in the comfortable surroundings while Ernie received excellent care. His pain was well-managed, and the family found the staff and volunteers available to chat any time and able to accommodate any request. It was the homey environment at McNally House that allowed for an easy transition from home. The family had freedom to visit whenever they wished, often singing, praying and reading. They were able to share time with other families in the kitchen and there was always a pot of soup ready to enjoy. The playroom was a great asset and allowed the grandchildren and great grandchildren the opportunity to visit “Papa Ernie”.
When Ernie passed away on March 10th, the staff offered words of comfort to family and friends, mindful of the loss each person was feeling. The family were given as much time as
they needed to say goodbye and when ready, a beautiful quilt was used to cover Ernie. As he was escorted from the house, staff and volunteers held a touching procession and honour guard in respect of his full life.
In remembrance of Ernie, and in gratitude for the care provided at McNally House, fourteen family members participated in the McNally House “Hike for Hospice” fundraiser in May this year. Each person carried a balloon and wore t-shirts with Ernie’s image on the front, keeping his spirit alive in the community.