Community hall named for Rolly Armitage
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Dec 15, 2011  |  Vote 0    0

Community hall named for Rolly Armitage

West Carleton Review

EMC - If you've got something to discuss with Roly Armitage, you'd better be prepared to do it on the move.

As he's a man turning 87 in February, you'd think it might be easy to keep up.

Think again.

We're talking about Dr. Roland Armitage, a man who has been anything but idle for his entire life.

His list of accomplishments is lengthy, and has led to a commemorative naming of the former West Carleton Township meeting hall in his honour.

On Friday, Dec. 9, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and West Carleton City Councillor Eli El-Chantiry officially named the meeting hall in the West Carleton Community Complex as the "'Dr. Roland Armitage Hall' in recognition of Dr. Armitage's significant contributions to our community."

The ceremony was attended by a crowd of well-wishers, former colleagues and family. In fact, four generations of the Armitage clan were on hand for the celebration.

Mayor Watson greeted the gathering and welcomed everyone to the joyous occasion.

"Dr. Armitage, or Roly as we all know him, has contributed exceptional devotion and service to the citizens of Ottawa, the Province of Ontario, and Canada as a whole. He is a decorated Second World War veteran, awarded the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal and the Normandy Medal.

"As a veterinarian and veterinary surgeon, Dr. Armitage cared for thousands of horses over his career, earning a reputation as being a leader in his profession and the horse racing world. In addition, Dr. Armitage held public office and served as Mayor of the Township of West Carleton and Member of the Council for the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, from 1991 to 1994."

It was his stint in municipal politics that had Roly rubbing shoulders with the mayor, who was a fledgling councillor at the time.

"We were rookie councillors together," Watson told the group. "I learned a lot about council and West Carleton from him."

Ironically, it was Roly Armitage who perceived Watson as someone with a future in politics. During his address to the gathering, Armitage said of Watson, "he was always giving a good summation and often swayed the vote. I told him that he could have a future in politics, and he proved that to be right with two terms as mayor and serving at the provincial level."

Eli El-Chantiry also lauded praise on Roly Armitage, calling him his mentor in his political career.

"Back when I ran the Lighthouse Restaurant in Constance Bay, Roly told me that I should give running for council a shot. His support helped me to win my first election."

Similarly, Roly Armitage praised El-Chantiry for his work as a public servant.

"You had a humble start but now you're Deputy Mayor," Armitage told El-Chantiry. "I am proud of what you have accomplished, you have worked hard for it."

And hard work is something Roly Armitage knows first hand. In every aspect of his life, he has devoted himself to doing only his best.

His grandson Shaun, who spearheaded the naming of the hall in honour of his grandfather, said he has never known a stronger, more dedicated individual.

"I spent my summers with him on the family farm," reflected Shaun. "He was the biggest, strongest man I knew and he taught me so much about the value of hard work and effort. One day when I was a teenager, I was complaining about having to move a pile of rocks. Poppa (as his grandchildren called him) said that I should stay in school so I wouldn't have to move rocks for a living. Then he took us all out for supper as a reward for our hard work. He knew how teach us the value of our efforts."

As a veterinarian, Armitage was well-respected throughout the area, having cared for thousands of animals, with horses always his favourite. To this day, he is still involved in harness racing with his son Donny, something he's done for decades.

"Dad instilled the work ethic in all of us," said Donny. "He was a good role model and his boots can't be filled by everyone in this room today."

But, Donny warned that anyone who wants to get his father's attention better prepared to keep up, because he's not ready to slow down anytime soon.

He still helps out with on a weekly basis at Rideau-Carleton Raceway where the heritage 'Armstead' steeds still stand out. All their horses are given the prefix name of "Armstead", a short form of Armitage Homestead.

In addressing, the group, Roly Armitage kept his comments short, a reflection of how he has always handled business.

"I am very honoured to be singled out," he told the admiring crowd. "There are a lot of people who have given up their lives or spent their time on something and got no recognition at all. I am just happy to be able to be here to receive this honour as most often this kind of thing doesn't happen until after you're dead. And I have no wish to die anytime soon."

Armitage praised Mayor Watson and Councillor El-Chantiry and thanked his grandson Shaun for spending more than two years on the process to have the hall named.

"One day generations from now, somebody may look at this plaque and think that maybe this old Armitage guy wasn't so bad after all," Armitage quipped.

"My dad was a Reeve of Kanata and my brother served on council in Kanata. I have family members that have served in the army, navy, air force and RCMP. I have a lot of pride in my family and I am honoured to be recognized this way."

After the official reception, Armitage and his closest friends and family adjourned to Constance Bay Legion for refreshments and dinner, a place where he is a welcomed regular.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but one thing is certain. Dr. Roland Armitage won't take it sitting down.

David Johnston is a freelance writer currently on assignment with the EMC.

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