OTTAWA’S OLDEST HOME and most beloved sisters
Sisters Grete Hale and Gay Cook are two of Ottawa’s most accomplished and beloved icons. As two of the four Morrison daughters, they were taught by their father (who started Ottawa’s first bakery in 1911 and co-founded the Morrison-Lamothe Bakery) to continue his tradition of service to the community. Cecil’s deathbed wish was for his daughters to be contributors and they have honoured his words with passion and commitment.
Recently, they were both awarded the Mayor’s City Builder Award to acknowledge their significant contributions to the betterment of Ottawa with their work and tireless volunteering for numerous organizations. Gay’s passion for cooking has taken her all over the world and is showcased in her book, Mrs. Cook’s Kitchen: Basics and Beyond. Grete’s storytelling skills were captured in her book, Baker’s Daughter: The Story of a Long, Rich and Very Canadian Life.
These two energetic go-getters believe sisters are God’s greatest invention and vow to never stop learning, travelling or being thankful for their families and communities. Living in the same heritage home where they grew up, Grete and Gay are surrounded by memories and family history. The expanded and restored stone farmhouse, built by Scotsman George Bayne 185 years ago, is recognized as Ottawa’s oldest home. WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP IN THIS HOME?
Grete: this was such a
• wonderful and busy household. There were always people around our dining room table. We were surrounded by caring Canadians and that started right here in our family. Our parents had a love affair that lasted until they died. We did things together as a united family and there were such happy days here. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING TOGETHER?
Grete: cooking for guests and our family. We auction gourmet dinners for our charities where Gay cooks and I serve. There is so much history to this house and guests love to ask questions and listen to stories about the family. It creates a lovely atmosphere. WHY DECIDE TO RENOVATE THE KITCHEN?
The kitchen used to be in the basement. There was a dumbwaiter that went up into the pantry to bring up the food. Mother planned to build what she called a decent kitchen, but my father was wiped out in the Depression and there was no money to build it. Twenty five years ago, my late husband Reg and I used our savings to build a kitchen in her memory. Last year we felt it was getting a little dowdy and made the joint decision to update it because we love to entertain and the kitchen is the heart of the home. HOW IMPORTANT IS THE BACKYARD GARDEN?
Gay: mother created the rock garden 80 years ago and there are apple and pear trees on the property. Our sister Jean Pigott planted a horse chestnut tree here on her wedding day. The garden is organic – with many varieties of herbs used in my recipes. I enjoy sitting near the fish pond and looking at the beauty of my mother’s gardening vision. She supported Ottawa charities by giving them grounds access for their summer tours. 10,000 visitors would come through every year. WHAT LEGACY WOULD YOU LIKE FOR YOUR HOME?
Grete: It is a home first and foremost. We trust our families will make the decisions together for whoever comes next. It is important to have a caring family around you. Love is the oil, the grease. It is the magic of living.
Grete and Gay prepare for a luncheon
The original well