Russ Brown

This past summer, with minimal assistance and working from a low chair, Russ created a flourishing tomato garden at Abbeyfield, turning over the sod, removing rocks and adding peat, fertilizer and wire cages for the plants.

September 16, 2017 | | Over the Next Hill

Snapshot: Meet a Community Elder

Russ Brown, a resident of Caledon’s Abbeyfield House, “has the soul of an artist,” according to his daughter. Tribute enough, but there is much more to the man.

The outbreak of World War II interrupted Russ’s McGill University studies. He applied to the Royal Canadian Air Force and was called up in June 1940.

Russ qualified as a pilot at Windsor Mills, Quebec, where his flying instructors were mostly former bush pilots, but he also learned – from experts in the aviation field – about how aircraft are designed and built. He moved on to Dunnville, Ontario for flight training in Harvards and Yales, then to Trenton to become a flying instructor, and eventually to teaching at Camp Borden, Saint-Hubert in Québec and Stanley in Nova Scotia. Along the way, he progressed through the ranks to become a flight commander, squadron commander, and finally staff officer. Although the Canadian government awarded him two service medals, to this day he feels a lingering disappointment that he was not posted overseas.


After the war Russ returned to McGill to finish his business degree. He then spent 33 years with Bell Canada in marketing, labour relations, personnel and management training. His final assignment for Bell, one he found highly interesting, involved working with the many independent telephone companies that once populated the Ontario telecom scene.

Today Russ calls himself a professional ceramicist, a skill that blossomed when he was in his early 70s and signed up to take a three-year, full-time course in craft and design at Sheridan College. At the time the curriculum included photography, machining, woodworking, textiles and ceramics. Russ graduated with honours, even though he was a hefty 50-plus years older than most of his classmates.

And he’s still going strong. A research paper on his experience as a senior student at Sheridan led Russ to develop a special interest in active seniors. He has also taken up writing. Among his published work is an article for a Globe and Mail series on retiring baby boomers – from the perspective of a parent of boomers.

This past summer, with minimal assistance and working from a low chair, Russ created a flourishing tomato garden at Abbey- field, turning over the sod, removing rocks and adding peat, fertilizer and wire cages for the plants. He is also a regular at the woodcarving class at the Caledon Seniors Centre in Bolton.

He will be 100 years old in February.

About the Author More by Gail Grant

Gail Grant is a freelance writer who lives in Palgrave.

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At Caledon’s bright and airy Abbeyfield House in Caledon East, residents gather for communal meals prepared by the live-in house manager. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Your Next Move

Sep 16, 2017 | Gail Grant | Over the Next Hill

Graduated communities that enable you to stay in your home area as capabilities diminish have obvious advantages.

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