Wees, Eleanor (nee Belyea)
Passed away peacefully at home on the morning of July 30, 2021 at age 98 after a brief period of declining health. Eleanor’s husband of 62 years, Ian, predeceased her in November 2019. She is survived by her son Eric (Yvonne), by nieces Charlotte (Valli) and Eileen of Montreal, by several grandnieces and grandnephews, and by three step-grandchildren and three step great-grandchildren.
Eleanor was born Alice Eleanor Belyea in Fredericton, New Brunswick on December 1, 1922 to John Allen Belyea and Bessie Alberta (Harrison) Belyea, both of New Brunswick. Eleanor was a graduate of the University of New Brunswick, receiving her B.A. in 1945, and then a Bachelor of Library Science from the University of Toronto in 1946.
From 1946 to 1953, she was head cataloguer at the University of New Brunswick Library, Fredericton. In 1953, she moved to Ottawa to work at the recently-established National Library of Canada (later Library and Archives Canada). Eleanor and a small group of other librarians and professionals, led by W. Kaye Lamb, were the founders who gave initial shape and direction to the National Library. That same year she met Ian Campbell Wees, a fellow librarian and native of Winnipeg Manitoba, who had come to work at the Canadian Bibliographic Centre (the forerunner of the National Library) in 1952. They were married on June 18, 1957 and their son, Eric, was born in September 1958. Between 1953 and 1958 and then from 1964 until her retirement in 1987, Eleanor worked on Canadiana, the national bibliography of Canada, and as a cataloguer of books and, later, sound recordings.
She was a long-standing and active member of First Baptist Church, Ottawa, becoming a member shortly after moving to Ottawa and making many lifelong friendships there. During her years as part of the church family, she served on many boards and committees, including the Board of Deacons, and established the church newsletter, Contact, in 1973. As a librarian, she was naturally inspired to develop a church library and she served as church librarian into her 90s. Her Christian faith and the fellowship of her church community gave immense meaning to her life.
Her mind and memory remained strong right up to her passing. Ever intellectually active and curious, Eleanor’s many interests included reading and poetry. While at the University of New Brunswick, she was an early member of the Bliss Carman Society, founded in 1940 by Dr. Alfred G. Bailey to animate literary life at U.N.B. and in Fredericton. The Society initially met to discuss and share poetry, and Eleanor, along with Dr. Bailey, Elizabeth Brewster, Frances Firth, Margaret Cunningham, Donald Gammon, and Fred Cogswell, among others, was an active member. The Society established The Fiddlehead in 1945, the oldest, continuously published literary magazine in Canada, and Eleanor contributed poetry to its early issues. She continued to occasionally write poetry throughout her life. In addition, she was a pianist, continuing to play into her later 90s, and much interested in classical music, attending the Ottawa Chamberfest for many years.
Eleanor was a modest and gentle person, consistently kind and considerate to those who knew her, and generous to the charities that were important to her. As characterized many of her generation, she was mentally and emotionally strong, resilient, stoic, and pragmatic. And, not to forget, she was an ardent cat lover throughout her life.
Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Nicole Dunlop and to Kim Hallarn, Director of Care at the Redwoods Retirement Residence, Ottawa, along with the management, nursing, personal support, and other staff at the Redwoods, for making Eleanor’s final years pleasant and her last weeks comfortable.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial service at First Baptist Church will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers and in Eleanor’s memory, the family would welcome donations in her name to the Ottawa Humane Society or to a charity of one’s choice.
Friday July 30th 2021
Nos plus sincères sympathies à la famille et aux amis de Eleanor Wees nee Belyea Friday July 30th 2021..
Décès pour la Ville:Ottawa, Province: Ontario