The Woman Who Lived in the Little Stone House: Ontario at Kildare


Pat Sturn, 1940s

You probably wondered who lived in that adorable stone house on the corner of Kildare and Ontario in Olde Walkerville. Chances are she took your parents’ or grandparents’ portrait and you didn’t even know it.

She was Pat Sturn, a local photographer, whose studio in the Canada Building on Ouellette Avenue in downtown Windsor was described as something out of Greenwich Village in New York.

She was born in Romania in 1910 and emigrated to Canada in the 1930s. I don’t know how long she lived in the stone house but she was there when I was growing up in the 1960s on nearby Devonshire Road. My brother used to mow her grass. My only memory of her from those days is the doll on the roof of her house. Someone must have tossed it there. It stayed put for quite some time and I would always look for it when I walked to Ottawa Street.

I was lucky to get to know her after she contacted me one day about ten years ago to let me know how much she enjoyed “The Walkerville Times”, which we used to have delivered to everyone in Walkerville for free. I used to go visit her in her little house which was crammed with beautiful treasures that she had collected over the years. She enjoyed meeting my children who were quite enchanted by her.

She had taken a portrait of my dad when he was in the Mayor’s office. It’s my favorite photo of him.

I longed to write a story about her but she was such a private person, she preferred that I didn’t. Happily, she didn’t mind me taking her photo.

Pat Sturn stands in the doorway of her home on Ontario at Kildare, photo e. weeks

helping Pat organize her old studio portraits

A few years ago, Pat asked me to help her sort through her studio photos. She had many unclaimed old portraits and now had an overwhelming urge to organize them and perhaps see that the subjects or their families received them. She wasn’t quite sure how.

While Pat sat in a comfortable chair and leaned forward on her cane, I steadily showed her each photo to see if she could remember who it was, a rather daunting undertaking as she was relying purely on memory to identify these faces from so long ago.

Ever the photographer, she snapped photos of me with a disposable camera while I sat on an ottoman in her study surrounded by her photos. As I picked my way through the piles, every now and then she would recognize someone and I could see how happy that made her. I would write the name on the back and then group the photo according to whether it was a man, woman or child.

When I came across the stunning portrait at the top of this story, I knew the woman must have been very special. She asked if I could guess who it was. I studied the tilt of the eyes and the full lips.

“This is you, Pat.”

She was pleased and I think maybe a bit surprised that I had guessed right. She described how the photographer she apprenticed for when she came to Windsor had asked her to model for him so he could practice his skills.

When I left that day, she asked me to take the photo with me. I was thrilled. I framed it and have it hanging in my living room.

Until we meet again.... Pat Sturn, photo e. weeks

Pat died last week on March 15, 2011. She was 100 years old.

I wish she could have lived forever.

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About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a peculiar series of events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, (partner is Chris Edwards,) Walkerville Publishing Inc., launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999, which in due course became "The Times Magazine". Our goal was to make history real. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, masters track & field competitor (when I have time), glass is nearly full person.
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12 Responses to The Woman Who Lived in the Little Stone House: Ontario at Kildare

  1. Pingback: Pat Burns Project Introduces Emilia Cundari and Celebrates Heritage Grant

  2. Bonnie Hl. says:

    Oh my goodness. My family used to get portraits done by Pat when she was on Ouellette Avenue. We have several of them in photo albums, the earlier ones in black and white. I still remember the camera she used, it was big and bulky and when she looked through the lens she covered her head with a sheeting that was attached to the camera then she would pull out the slide of the picture she took.

    • History Babe says:

      Bonnie, if you are interested in contributing your photos by Pat Sturn to The Pat Sturn Project (here’s the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/patsturnproject) I know the organizers would be very happy. This is what the Project entails:

      A project to create a musical tribute to Windsor photographer Pat Sturn who spent her long life putting others in a good light. She lived to be 100, and died in 2011. Now, it’s time to shine a spotlight on her and her legacy.
      The Pat Sturn Project is an ongoing tribute, with the end goal of creating an original musical work called “I Imagine Angels”. The story, written by Windsor poet and author Marty Gervais, will take you to Romania where Pat Sturn was born and to her studio on Ouellette Avenue where she photographed thousands of Windsorites over several decades. You will also discover the life and art of Sturn’s friend, the internationally renowned opera singer, Emilia Cundari. The story will explore how these two gifted women viewed their careers and their life in art.
      The music, composed by Jeff Smallman, will be for singer/narrator, violin, cello and piano.

  3. I’ve always loved that mysterious little house and wondered who lived there. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Doug says:

    It’s too bad that we pass on – but she was fortunate that she was able to leave something of herself behind, in the work that she did. The photograph from the 40’s is stunning – and she was breathtaking. Anyone would be fortunate to have it, even if they had not known her. And of course even more so for you, because it has personal meaning to you.

  5. What a lovely story about a special lady… may she RIP …

  6. Kari says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story… it was exciting to learn about Ms. Sturn, but sad that I learned of her only after she had passed.

  7. Howard weeks says:

    Good story Elaine, from your brother who used to mow Ms Sturn’s grass. She was always good to me, a fine lady whom I wish I’d gotten to know a lot better. RIP

  8. Mike Foster says:

    Oh, the wonderfully exciting stories she must have had about this area in it’s heyday! It’s a real shame we lost her.

  9. pc says:

    so sad to hear. my parents live around the corner and my sister and i always wondered about the house and the woman who lived there. thank you for sharing! the photo at the top is stunning!

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