WEST ZORRA NURSING SISTER ACCORDED FULL MILITARY FUNERAL
written by Shirley McCall Hanlon with credit to the Stratford Gazette, November 2005
Elsie Gertrude Ross (born June 22, 1882) was born in the Township of West Zorra, daughter of Alexander and Christina (nee Murray) Ross. 1891 Census records show the family still living in West Zorra, however in the 1901 Census the family is shown to be now farming at Lot 37 Concession 3 of North Easthope in the County of Perth.
Elsie first trained as a teacher but shortly thereafter followed her true profession and trained as a nurse. She was a graduate of Toronto General Hospital. Elsie committed herself to helping wounded soldiers when war broke out. She served in camp hospitals in Toronto and Niagara and spent much time at the Soldiers Convalescent Home. She became the first Matron of the Military Hospital for Returned Sick Soldiers on College Street in Toronto, which she ran for two months before her death. The cause of death was recorded as pleuro-pneumonia.
Perhaps it was her dedication, or her cheery disposition, but when she died the military she had cared for showed the nursing sister the same respect. As reported by the Toronto Daily Star on Feb. 28, 1916, the military funeral of nursing sister Ross was held under the direction of Brigadier General Logie at the Toronto Medical Academy at Queen's Park. "The Academy was crowded with the numerous relatives, colleagues and friends who gathered to pay a last respect to the late nursing sister. The casket was placed in the auditorium of the Academy, surrounded by numerous floral tributes, among which were remembrances from all the local hospitals and medical institutes."
Army Medical Corps officers carried her Union Jack-draped casket through the honor guard to the gun carriage of the 75th Battalion. Her casket then travelled down University Ave. to Queen St. and finally down Simcoe St. to Union Station. The Toronto Daily Star also reported "The presence of about 50 of the war-scarred heroes from the Convalescent Home lent a deeper military tone to the ceremony. Many of the veterans hobbled behind the gun carriage on crutches, while others trudged along with the aid of a stick". What a moving sight that must have been.
Once back in Perth County, Elsie was laid to rest on February 29. A gun carriage was sent from Guelph, assisted by men from the 71st and 110th Battalions. A full military funeral left her parents' homestead at 2 p.m. Rev. Dr. Martin of Knox Presbyterian Church was to perform the service at 1:30 p.m.
Finally laid to rest in Avondale Cemetery, nursing sister Elsie Gertrude Ross was the first nurse in the Toronto division to receive a full military funeral.