In Memory of Cecilia Aileen Ulmer
Our beautiful and remarkable mother, Cecilia Aileen Ulmer (nee Ryan), passed away peacefully at Bearbrook Retirement Residence in Ottawa on the evening of December 5th with family at her bedside after a short illness.
Cece, as she was fondly known by friends and family, was born in Gatineau, Quebec on September 3rd, 1921 (year of birth unconfirmed by her former accountant, Phil Gervais). She was raised in Ottawa by her mother, Vina, a French-Canadian nurse, with her siblings, Eamon (Pat), Kevin (Bubby) and Alice after losing her father to pneumonia when she was only 10. She was a teenager when World War II began, a time of food rationing and terrible loss. She trained as a stenographer and on weekends she would dash off to nightclubs like the Standish Hall in Hull, Quebec, with Alice, her mischievous and well-loved sister, both dressed “to the nines” with fitted gowns, hats and gloves, looking like movie stars, dancing to the Big Bands that played there until the early hours. After the war, our mother married a tall, dashing Westerner, Allan Ulmer from Spruce Grove, Alberta. She loved her new family, the Ulmers, like they were her own and formed friendships and a love of German food like berhay and rice rolls that would last a lifetime. The couple settled in Ottawa. Soon came children, three, in fact: Trina, Kimberley and Michael as well as a relocation to Sarnia, Ontario to a lovely split-level home close to the shores of Lake Huron. And then a fourth child, Jennifer.
At 49, she was diagnosed with breast cancer as her marriage faltered. Life changed forever, but she stubbornly prevailed and later thrived, teaching herself to drive an old Volkswagen in the church parking lot across the street, finding meaningful work assisting job seekers, taking up ceramics and art, and finding solace in church and prayer.
At 57, she bravely moved back to Ottawa, to be closer to family (particularly her beloved sister, Alice and her brother-in-law, Gerry). She bought an apartment, and then another and then a house. The only thing slowing her down slightly were dim-witted loan officers who saw a single mother with unstable work as too big a risk. Imagine. Summer weekends were spent at the cottage in Quyon, Quebec with Alice and Gerry, enjoying a cocktail or two whilst listening to the dulcet tones of Old Blue Eyes or Tony Bennett. Later, she bought her brother Kevin’s cottage a few houses down, called the Opera Seats because of its enviable position overlooking the river. Many an evening was spent surrounded by family there, playing Crazy 8s, checkers and Uno with her children, then grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. What a life she has lived.
Cece will be greatly missed by her four children: Christina Ulmer (spouse John Flaim), Kimberley Ulmer (spouse Kirk Dougherty), Michael Ulmer (spouse Agnes Bongers), and Jennifer Ulmer (spouse Philip Gervais) as well as her grandchildren: Kyle MacKinnon (spouse Katie Brodhagen-MacKinnon), Aimee MacKinnon, Megan Dougherty (spouse Mer Weinhold), Emma Dougherty (spouse Vincent Siler), Sadie Ulmer, Hannah Ulmer, Madalyn Ulmer, Wade Gervais, Tessa Gervais and Grace Gervais. She will also be missed by her great-grandchildren: Gavin, Ryan, Connor and Charlee. Cece is predeceased by her parents, Vina and Edward Ryan; brothers, Eamon and Kevin Ryan; as well as her treasured younger sister, Alice Pollack. A mass will be held in her honour at the Parish of the Annunciation of The Lord on Friday, December 10th at 11 am, followed by a small reception. For those who can’t attend, a streaming service will be available here: