Slowing down - for all kinds of reasons

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It's a small world, and if you slow down enough, you might not miss it.

Our doorbell rang recently, and a neighbour stood at my door, envelope in hand.

 "I don't know if this is what you were looking for your 'stories', but you may find it interesting.  Use what you want," she said.

Her husband was on his bike out on the street.  He waved kindly.

The letter began: "When my husband called me to tell me, due to a business change, that we were moving to Baie D'Urfé, I asked, 'Where is Bay Bur-pee?'

"47 years later, we're still here."

Sally and Jim Rowell rented a house in Baie D'Urfé two years prior to moving to their permanent residence on Westchester drive. Their new home was directly across from cows and horses and a certain Mr. Fritz, whom they would chat with, from time to time, over the fence of his farm.  

As their two children, Bill and Cindy, grew, they all became immersed in the community.  From the swim team in the summer to hockey in the winter; from the badminton club on to volunteering for the fire department or with Baie D'Urfé Days and building floats or driving convertibles; the Rowell's lived well and full in their community much like many of us do living in the West Island.  

One day, early on in our first summer in our home, Sally randomly walked through our backyard and handed me some lettuce from their garden.  "We've got plenty," she said, and was gone.

My wife and I had actually spent some time inside the Rowell's home, unbeknownst to them. A friend of ours had been housesitting their home as they 'Snowbirded' in Florida one year, and we had been over for a few casual drinks one time.  My wife and I apparently had stared out through their living room window in to what would, some ten odd years later, be our very own backyard.

In our case, this future was friendly.

For the Rowells, however, their past was, well, not so much.

Sally's letter went on: "We, as you can see, are still happy to be here in our own home and we hope, with our advancing age, we can stay put a while longer."

"But, citizens who read this, Westchester Drive is not a raceway.  So please, please slow down."

I grew up on Baie D'Urfé streets; streets very similar to many in the West Island.  I took for granted the lack of stop signs and unpaved sidewalks and became almost reflexively comfortable walking, playing hockey, tossing a ball, or loping lazily about on my bike - I always felt profoundly safe.  

Of course there were places that weren't safe, and we were vehemently warned against these.  On Lakeshore Road or in the parking lot of the Plaza Pointe Claire shopping centre or, at the time, the worst of all, the Morgan Road - Highway 20 (then known as the 'two and twenty') traffic lights.

A young girl my age at the time, among others, had lost her life recently at that Morgan intersection, I was told repeatedly.  That story was etched and sketched into my brain, warning me that automobiles and speed, mixed with a second of carelessness, can kill.

That 'girl my age', I found out while reading Sally and Jim's letter, was their daughter.

As summer days descend upon us, and we bask in the links that knot all of our communities together, wind Cindy Rowell's memory into your own each and every time you get behind the wheel, and help honour her, by driving more slowly and carefully - Westchester or anywhere!

By slowing down, maybe we won't miss the message of this letter...

Huntley Addie is an English, drama and media arts teacher at John Rennie High School and would love to take a shot at writing any stories you might want to be told about anyone who might want to feel golden, or bronze or just plain special. Send submissions or ideas to:




Organizations: John Rennie High School

Geographic location: Baie D'Urfé, Westchester, West Island Florida Lakeshore Road Morgan Road

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Recent comments

  • Ron Sharpe
    July 29, 2013 - 11:10

    Mindless drivers, speeding along West Island streets is out of control and there seems little to deter them. Cripes, where I live in Pte-Claire, the "private" alleyway for residents of the "complex" is a freeway!!! And the worst offenders, regularly tearing along at 40-50 km/h where 15 is safe (!) have kids who play in the same alley! I've come to the conclusion that some "break your suspension if you don't slow down" speed bumps may be the only answer.