Whe­lan chil­dren make Belle Vue do­na­tion

Windsor Star - - CITY + REGION - MARY CATON mca­ton@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/win­star­ca­ton

Terry Whe­lan re­mem­bers com­ing to Amher­st­burg’s his­toric Belle Vue House with her sis­ters as kids for an an­nual sum­mer bar­be­cue.

She and Su­san were there again Thurs­day, al­though flur­ries and cold tem­per­a­tures made the idea of sum­mer fun seem like a dis­tant mem­ory.

They hud­dled on the front steps of the 200-year-old home to present of­fi­cials from the Belle Vue Con­ser­vancy with a $20,000 do­na­tion in mem­ory of their late par­ents, Eu­gene and El­iz­a­beth Whe­lan.

Another sis­ter, Cathy Whe­lan Mol­loy, was un­able to at­tend.

“This place is a treasure for ev­ery­one, not only in Amher­st­burg but all across On­tario to en­joy,” said Su­san. “My par­ents would have been thrilled that the town has come to­gether with this won­der­ful group of vol­un­teers to pre­serve Belle Vue.”

De­scrib­ing her­self as the fam­ily’s “mu­seum junkie,” Terry said the do­na­tion is the “per­fect” le­gacy for her par­ents.

Eu­gene Whe­lan, a long­time mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and for­mer agri­cul­ture min­is­ter, loved his­tory, and El­iz­a­beth took the girls to all the mu­se­ums Ot­tawa had to of­fer when they went to visit their dad.

“They loved this stuff,” Terry said.

Su­san, her­self a for­mer MP, noted that her fa­ther had a long as­so­ci­a­tion with Belle Vue.

“It’s meant a lot to our fam­ily over the years so it’s only fit­ting that we be part of the ren­o­va­tions,” she said.

Linda Jack­son, chair of cor­po­rate out­reach for the con­ser­vancy group, re­counted two oc­ca­sions where Gene Whe­lan stepped in to help Belle Vue through its var­i­ous rein­car­na­tions.

In 1962, while an MP, he helped fa­cil­i­tate the sale of the home to the Ukrainian Church and 21 years later, he over­saw a grant pro­posal worth $156,000 for roof and foun­da­tion re­pairs.

The once-lav­ish home built in 1816 has stood boarded up and empty since 2003. Her­itage Canada’s Na­tional Trust placed it on an en­dan­gered list for de­mo­li­tion by ne­glect, a fate avoided when the town pur­chased it in the fall of 2016.

A group of con­cerned cit­i­zens re­or­ga­nized their restora­tion ef­forts as the Belle Vue Con­ser­vancy and em­barked on a $1-mil­lion fundrais­ing cam­paign.

The Whe­lans’ con­tri­bu­tion pushes the con­ser­vancy’s first-year do­na­tion to­tal to $305,000.

As a ma­jor donor to the win­dow pro­gram, a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing Eu­gene and El­iz­a­beth will be placed be­low a river­front win­dow in the pioneer kitchen of the home.

One of five main-floor rooms has gar­nered a $100,000 do­na­tion for nam­ing rights from the Gat­field Fam­ily Foun­da­tion.

Shirley Cur­son-Prue, pres­i­dent of the Belle Vue Con­ser­vancy, said fundrais­ing ef­forts con­tinue. In ad­di­tion to its cor­po­rate out­reach, the group just launched an ini­tia­tive aimed at high school stu­dents, kick­ing it off with a visit to Vil­lanova last week.

“We’re try­ing to hit as many de­mo­graph­ics as we can,” Cur­son-Prue said. “This is your fu­ture, this is where your kids are go­ing to come.”

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