Easing the Toughest Journey of All

As a very young man “Lefty” Lew Ayre had the choice to either follow a blossoming hockey career with the Boston Bruins, or join the Canadian forces in the struggle overseas during WWII. This was a decision that would have perplexed most, but for Lew, who lived his life with a strong sense of purpose and the desire to do his part, the answer was simple and he enlisted immediately becoming a member of the Lincoln-Welland Regiment.

After serving his country during the war, the London Ontario native would return to Canada to marry the love of his life, Elva, and settle down in Stratford while working as a plant superintendent for Domtar in St. Mary’s. Their 61 year marriage would produce a beautiful family that would come to include son Gary and two daughters, Kathy and Sandra, as well as 5 adoring grandchildren – Stephanie, Robb, Mitchell, Adam, and Julia.

Lew and Elva lived a rich and full life, without regret. But like all of us, Lew and his family would be faced with tough choices when it came to life’s hardest journey of all – end of life.

In their later years, Lew and Elva decided to move to Lincoln Park in Grimsby to be closer to their daughter Sandra and her husband Mitchell Kozlowski, who owns and operates Mitchell’s Medical Supply. When Elva’s health started to fail, Lew and Sandra unselfishly took on the difficult role of care providers. But as many can relate, this is not without its challenges. After losing Elva, and when his own health began to fail in the fall of 2013, the decision to come to McNally House Hospice, although not easy for the family, was the best choice for all.

Within the loving and compassionate environment of McNally House, Lew flourished and his family received the most precious gift of all – time. At McNally things became easier for the Ayre family – they could now enjoy spending time with their father and grandfather without the burden of providing the 24 hour care he needed. “Because of the unconditional nurturing and kindness we received from McNally House, we were able to get extra time together that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.” explains Sandra. “Visiting Grandpa was like coming home,” explains granddaughter Julia, now 11. “Everyone here is so kind; there was always a hug for everyone.”

During his stay at McNally House, Lew lived the remainder of his life to the fullest. The spark that defined him throughout his life came back. Forever the social convener wherever he went, Lew would gladly challenge anyone to a game of checkers or regale them with a fishing story or joke. “There’s life at McNally House,” explains daughter Sandra, “its celebrated every day.” This was a sentiment shared by Lew himself who was deeply touched by the special Remembrance Day service the staff and volunteers arranged just for Lew, to his very own stocking on Christmas morning.

Lew passed away peacefully at McNally house on February 14, 2014 at the age of 90. Although end of life is difficult for us all, Sandra and her family could not have imagined a more perfect journey and good- bye to the gentle giant who was their father and grandfather. Sandra and her family can’t express enough their gratitude to McNally House and how lucky we are to have such a truly unique and special facility like this in our community.