Alma Brownlee


A lifetime resident of the Chesterville area, Alma Brownlee passed away at the Dundas Manor in Winchester, on Tuesday, November 18, 2014.  She was 101.

Alma was born in Brockville ,on February 7, 1913, just prior to WW1. She was the third child, but the first daughter to Reverend Foster Chapin Bowen and his wife Margaret. Alma would soon have three younger sisters to help care for.  

The family did not have much money, but they had the foundation on which great lives are built: strong faith, a good work ethic and a dedication to community service. 

The six Bowen children were often sent out to help others in the community. One summer when Alma was 10, she was sent to help a parishioner maintain her garden. Alma enjoyed gardening, and for years she kept a huge vegetable garden at her home on Howard Street.

During the Great Depression, hobos left signs pointing to a welcoming house where they could get a free meal. The Bowen household was one of those homes with an open door to the hungry and the homeless. 

Like her parents, Alma never stopped caring for others even in the last year of her life.

Alma was an excellent nurse. Alma graduated from the Ottawa Civic Hospital in 1936, at the age of 23. One of Alma’s patients was struck by her beauty and invited her to a hockey game. A perfect Canadian first date. That fellow was Mansel Brownlee, whom Alma married in 1938.

When Alma moved to Chesterville with husband Mansel in 1938, she was welcomed to the town at a reception attended by over 100 people. 

Alma enjoyed Chesterville’s friendly small town spirit for many decades. She was an enthusiastic member of Christ Church United (formerly Chesterville United) for over seven decades.

She was also a faithful canvasser for the local Canadian Cancer Society and member of the Women’s Institute.

In 1938, a nurse had to quit her job when she got married. Until she returned to nursing almost 30 years later, Alma dedicated herself to being a resourceful homemaker. She was able to feed and clothe a family of six children on a shoestring budget.

Alma’s secrets to living a long and healthy life were: just keep moving, eat a healthy diet and think about others. 

Alma will be remembered for her loving attitude towards everyone she met, her fabulous energy and uplifting spirit.

Alma is survived by her children Lois Quartus of Chesterville, Donald of Williamsburg, Margaret Carruthers (John) of Morrisburg, Lorraine Cross (Jack) of Peachland, B.C. and Brian (Louise) of Oakville, her son-in-law Gary Merkley of Chesterville and her brother-in-law Rev. Fred Francis of Kingston.  

She was predeceased by her beloved husband of 49 years, Mansel Brownlee, who died in 1987; her daughter Betty Merkley who died in 2012; her sisters Luella Bailey, Ruby Dickson, Grace Francis and her brothers Carmen and Willard Bowen. 

Alma will be fondly remembered by her grandchildren Larry, Janet, Peter, Catherine, Shelley, Matthew, Rodney, Cindy, Allison, and Nick; by nine great-grandchildren Michael, Chris, Owen, Emma, Grant, Anderson, Jacob, Petra, and Everleigh, and one great-great-grandson, Alejandro George Bemi, along with her nieces and nephews who shared their happy memories of Alma in a Tribute Book created for her 100th birthday.  

Friends called at Christ Church United in Chesterville, on Friday, November 21st from 10 a.m. until time of the funeral service at 11 a.m., which was conducted by Rev.Debbie Poirier. 

Interment followed at Maple Ridge Cemetery, Chesterville. Pallbearers were grandsons Larry Quartus, Peter Carruthers, Nick Brownlee, Mike Bemi, and Chris Bemi. 

Donations to Christ Church United or the Canadian Cancer Society would be gratefully acknowledged by the family. Online condolences may be made at


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