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The ‘Glen and Phyllis Williams Family Bursary’

Glen Gordon Williams, was born in Toronto May 10th 1917, during the height of the W.W.I. He graduated from Vaughan Road Collegiate in 1935. In the winter of 1936 he chauffeured a lady and her companions to and around Florida for several months and on his return he secured employment at Canada Packers Ltd where he received accounting experience that would prove valuable in his career.
Phyllis Ada Fullerton, was born April 7th 1916. She grew up on the shores of Skeleton Bay on Lake Rosseau and attended a one room school house in Bent River for 8 years. Her parents obviously valued a good education because at the age of only 13 Phyllis was sent to Bracebridge to go to High School. She boarded there because there were no school buses in 1929 and no way to get back and forth each day. In fact, the roads in Town were not even plowed during the winter. A horse dragging a plow cleared only the sidewalks.

Being boarded away from home at that age would certainly have built a strong character. You would certainly have developed a sense of independence, learned how to cope, developed close friendships and of course, concentrated on your studies. Phyllis graduated from Grade 13 and went on to Toronto to take a one year commercial course.
One of her first jobs was at Canada Packers. She was hired after typing for 5 minutes without one mistake. This is where she met her husband, Glen Williams. They married in 1942 and she joined him in P.E.I. in 1943 where he was stationed at a radar post. Following their marriage Glen went to Europe the remainder of the war, spending time in England and Germany until May of 1946.

In 1946 they spent the summer working in Windermere where someone recognized Glen’s attention to detail and accounting skills and asked if he would be interested in becoming the Town Clerk and Treasurer for the Town of Gravenhurst. He accepted in April of 1947. He also became the Secretary of the Light and Water Commission. He had absolutely no knowledge of government affairs but read every book available from the government.

He and Mayor Harold King recognized Gravenhurst was woefully short of affordable housing in 1947 and the government was offering subsidies for veterans. They negotiated an agreement for 50 lots to be developed as ‘Wartime Houses’. An area east of the ‘Kings Highway 11’ was developed for veterans. To qualify under the ‘Veteran’s Land Act’ you had to have a child and you had to be a veteran and that entitled you to a building lot with a requirement to build within 2 years.
The wartime area of Gravenhurst was a wonderful place to raise a family. There were lots of children to play. It was safe. There was a small ‘parkette’ to play in and the schools were close by. There were large families and across the street from the Williams the family had 10 children. The parents worked locally. They did not make a lot of money and the expectation of their children going to university was not a priority for most families and opportunity for their children was limited. For Phyllis, there was more of an expectation for her children to go. Lynda went to the Ontario Art College and became a teacher. Phillip went to Ryerson to study engineering and became the owner of Coon Brothers in Gravenhurst.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s there were 3 towns in Muskoka and 23 Townships and although the Mayors and Reeves met once a year they had no power. Glen became secretary of the District Council and pushed for the District Municipality of Muskoka to be created. When it was approved by the Provincial Government he was the first clerk/administrator in 1970.

In a separate part of his life he met a young lawyer named Gordon Aiken, our former Member of Parliament and together they developed the cottage lots on Brandy Lake and Leonard Lake in the early 1960’s. A common problem purchaser’s of cottages faced was financing, because they were seasonal, not insulated, often without power or septic systems and banks would not finance these summer properties. Glen met another young lawyer named, Peter Stuart and they solved this problem by forming a partnership in ‘Muskoka Land Credits’ to finance the sale of these cottages.

He joined Bob Boyer to develop a ‘home for the aged’ in Bracebridge and it is still known as
‘The Pines’ in Bracebridge.
As you know……behind every successful man there is a strong woman and that was Phyllis.
She not only had the secretarial and organizational skills to help him is his pursuits, but she managed the young family of three children, Lynda, Phillip and Barbara.

Phyllis has loved living in Gravenhurst and given back in many ways. When Glen was acting as Secretary of the Muskoka Steamship Society or singing with the ‘Men of Song’….. Phyllis was likely driving someone to hospital for dialysis treatments.
Over the years Phyllis has seen many bright young children in our town who did not have the opportunity to go to university. She understands Glen and her family have been blessed during their lives with good fortune, as a result of hard work and dedication.
They were married for 67 years. September 30th 2009 Glen passed away.
In August of 2012, Phyllis, now widowed and living at the Martin Manor, noted the growing success of the Rotary Bursary Endowment Fund. She contacted the Chairman of the fund and asked if he would come to visit her and discuss the fund. She had made another decision, to give back to her community! On September 10th 2012, Phyllis, now aged 96, and her daughter Lynda attended a Rotary luncheon at the Opera House and presented the Rotary Bursary Endowment Fund with a cheque in the amount of $100,000.00 ! !   The entire room, many of whom knew Phyllis and Lynda,  rose in unison to applaud her generousity and commitment to the children and community of Gravenhurst.
Phyllis wants you to have the same opportunity she had to obtain a good education. She encourages you to study with a determination and an intensity to be the best you can be.

We at the Rotary Bursary Endowment Fund ask you to remember Phyllis and Glen Williams and
when the time is right, give back to your community!