It’s a sad truth, but the fact that Knox Church the building remains closed for services as a result of the pandemic means we continue to miss the friendships and enjoyment we have grown to take for granted on Sundays and beyond. We’re anticipating that will change in mid August. In the meantime, we’re continuing to prepare a few bios of congregation members…so we don’t forget each other. Sometimes you also see people each week but really don’t know anything about them. So, if anyone doesn’t know Don Ross, it’s time you did.
Fifty years goes by in a flash when you say it fast. For Don Ross, part of his personal history over the last 50 years has been serving as an elder at Knox Presbyterian Church. Don was first elected elder in 1970, half a century ago. That kind of staying power my friends is no mean feat!
For those old enough, think back to what was happening in our world in 1970…
- U.S. President Richard Nixon orders an invasion of Cambodia, widening the war in Vietnam;
- The Canadian government declares a state of emergency and outlaws the Quebec Liberation Front during the October Crisis. Pierre Laporte is found murdered in south Montreal;
- The Beatles release their 12th and final album, Let It Be;
- An oxygen tank in the Apollo 13 spacecraft explodes, forcing the crew to abort the mission. Fortunately, they splash down safely in the Pacific four days after launch;
- The Nobel Prize in Physics is divided equally between Swedish electrical engineer Hannes Olof Gösta Alfvén and French physicist Louis Eugène Félix Néel; and
- The Montreal Alouettes defeat the Calgary Stampeders 23–10 to win the 58th Grey Cup.
Don was just 33 when he first became an elder at Knox. His background included the Presbyterian Church he had attended when growing up on a mixed farm, “mostly dairy,” in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. As a kid, he attended a one room (“or was it two?”) school.
Don didn’t stay on the farm though. He headed to the city and Dalhousie University where he would graduate with a Master of Science degree in Physics. Maybe that’s why they couldn’t keep him down on the farm.
His professional abilities ultimately drew Don to Ottawa in 1958 and a position in Defence Research Telecommunications with the federal government. He held a number of significant positions in the communications field over his career, sometimes called upon to attend meetings at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva.
Don met his wife Joyce in Ottawa where they were married in Centennial year, 1967.
“Joyce was in the choir at Knox, plus we got together quite often at the RA Yacht Club, part of the Civil Service Recreation Association. It was a small club with sail boats on Dow’s Lake. We really enjoyed it…it was quite a nice set up really.”
That interest in sailing continued well after Don and Joyce were married as they became members of the Kanata Sailing Club.
Don’s been involved in countless aspects of Church life over the years: Boy’s Brigade way back when, Temporal Board, Scottish Dancing and Burns’ Suppers, numerous committees - History and Archives in particular - and on and on. He still volunteers at Out-of-the-Cold as he has done for years, and is involved outside the church with the Historical Society of Ottawa.
“If I remember right, my first job with Out-of-the-Cold was peeling potatoes.”
The Rosses have a son and daughter, both of whom live in town. And, like so many of us, Don has stayed pretty close to home since this pandemic began. “Getting out for a walk like everyone else…there’s not much else you’ve been allowed to do.”
Don says they will likely be going out to their cottage for a few days here and there now that restrictions are lifting. Though he retired from his professional life in 1995, Don has never retired from his Church.
It’s 2020, he’s still an elder, it’s a lot of work, but there are many people who would like to see him stay on into his next 50-year term.
In his usual self-effacing fashion, Don will only say, “we’ll have to see.”
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